Skip to main content

Full text of "Microcosm"

See other formats


Microcosm 




2005 



Spring Volume 32 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 



http://archive.org/details/microcosm32unse 




Spring 2005 Volume 32 



Staff 

Editors: 

Other Staff Members: 



Faculty Advisors: 



Craig Donald Case 
Sara Cochran 

Jimmy Joseph Serio, Webmaster 
Randall King 
Natasha Nelson 
Amanda Stevenson 
Rebecca Teasley 

Casey Hardison-Pevey 
Nicole Donald 
David E. Campbell 



Microcosm is a publication of the Copiah-Lincoln Community 
College Humanities Department, Debbie Bush, chairman, and the 
Art Department. It is published partially through a grant from 
the Co-Lin Foundation. Inquiries should be addressed to Micro- 
cosm, P. O. Box 649, Wesson, Mississippi 39191. The reading 
period for submissions is August through the first week of Janu- 
ary. 



Microcosm 2005 



Microcosm 2005 



CD 
Q) 



Dayne Sherman 



c 



The Microcosm staff is proud to feature Dayne 
Sherman as the featured author for the 2004-2005 
publication. Mr. Sherman currently teaches at 
Southeastern Louisiana University. His first novel 
Welcome to the Fallen Paradise was released in Octo- 
ber 2004. Additionally, his fiction has appeared in 
Louisiana Cultural Vistas, Fourteen Hills: The San 
Francisco State University Review, The Distillery, 
Country Roads Magazine, The Powhatan Review, and 
Blue Moon Cafe III: An Anthology of Southern Writers. 



a. 



o 



Microcosm 2005 




Illustrator: Becky Cobb 



Microcosm 2005 



contents 



Staff 


1 


Featured Author 


3 


poetry 




Damaged 


7 


A Different Kind 


9 


A Voiceless Scream 


10 


Chaos 


11 


Word to the Wise 


13 


What if? 


14 


Delta Soul 


15 


Zero 


16 


short story 




The Striped Culotte 


17 


Barely Goodbye 


21 


A Long Ride Home 


28 


It's Not Always Gonna Be Sunny and 75 Degrees 


32 


Precious 


39 


I Can Spot One 


45 


Returning Like a Dog 


49 


The Diary of Eve 


53 


The Snake 


62 


essay 




A Stereotypical White Male 


69 


The Wasteland of Don Quixote 


71 


icrocosm 2005 





The Weaknesses of a Master 76 

drama 

A Portrait of a Soldier 79 

Just Another Guy 83 

Thanks-Giving 89 

Amanda Stevenson 



Microcosm 2005 




Damaged ^3 

ANNA C.SMITH 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

CD 

None of it really means anything. 
Nothing unusual 

no feelings 

just empty words. 

A blended heart 

that keeps beating 

not worthless 

but just enough 

to start healing 

without anyone's help. 

No need for you. 

No need for anyone 

who may be like you. 

It's fine. See? 

No damage was done. 

The heart will be fixed 

but never the same. 

Who would want it 

anyway ? You did. 

You took it, used it, and gave it back. 

It's okay. 

You got what you thought you wanted. 

All that is left is a heart 

with no trust, no feelings. 

Don't worry. 

No damage was done. 

Microcosm 2005 




Illustrator: Garrett May 



Microcosm 2005 



A Different Kind 

SHIRA MARCUS 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

Years of torment 
Months of rage 
Days of sadness 
Moments caged 

Life suppressed 
By one single man 
Bruises made 
By one single hand 

Is it something learned 
Or something had 
That makes a person 
So viciously mad 

It captures the mind 
And turns it around 
It swallows a person 
Than pushes them down 

What? You say 
Could consume the soul 
It's love I tell you 
Love in its whole 



Microcosm 2005 



A Voiceless Scream 

MAMIE COSPER 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

I roam and pace and walk the floor in fear, in dread, in silent 
prayer. 

Up and down the white tiled halls, past the lights and painted 
walls. 

Take my hand and touch the fear upon my brow. 

Voices deep inside my head chant and sing their siren song 
Harried by this mournful call, I drag my feet and move along. 

I shriek in silent torment, life's truths consist of lies. 
And empty days, of empty hours, pass before my eyes. 
Take my hand; embrace my deep despair. 



Within the barren void I find, the time to flee, a place to hide. 

Help me, hold me, please, I plead, but your open arms are closed 
to me. 



Trapped within this bleak respite I face my deepest fears. 
Alone, forgotten, deserted no one wipes my tears 
Take my hand; set free my heart, my soul. 

For deep within an empty sigh, a voiceless scream, and unheard 
cry. 

I lay and dream, within a dream, of a life I wish were mine. 



10 Microcosm 2005 



Chaos 



MEGAN RUSSELL 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

Hysteria, mass hysteria 

So many voices, louder and louder 

All saying different words 

Running together — chaos 

Pure chaos. 

Why won't it stop? 

The voices keep coming 

Death, drugs, sex; death, drugs, sex 

It's so hard to understand, 

But I hear every word 

Every voice 

Every sound. 

I wish it to go away, but 
It's still here 
Even after it's over, 
It's still here 

How do you stay sane 
With all these voices 
And all this craziness? 
How can you not fall — 
Fall into the pit of 
Hysteria, mass hysteria 

Microcosm 2005 11 







I / 7 • ' 

X 4g^ 


i-Z~P 


itf) * 



h 




^\—^^ 






N 



/ 



V 






r 



Illustrator: Sara Cochran 



12 



Microcosm 2005 



Word to the Wise 

ZAK TILLOTSON 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 



A woo of death calms the qualm of complacency, 
while in this land of illusion silence is the shudder 

on every window of opinion. Torn down is the 
praise that was given to the kings on the west side 

of dawn. I'm just another man in this battle for 

human existence; another statistic in these days of 

ballistic characteristics. 

I think we missed it-the chance to gut the 

gluttenous kings who yank the hooks in our mouths 

until our faces go green. Another obscene scene, 

another scheme, another spleen poisoned by the 

new world kings, another green eyed monster, 

another ring master taunter, another sleep walking 

hunter, a mantra of ignorance. 

The belligerent kings of war are turning America 

into an imperial land whore. Settle the score. The 

day reckoning is coming. The day of the proletariat 

king, a day to sing and rejoice, a day we finally have 

a voice. The time to stand is now, against the 

dictator's blight, cast out the blinded eyes, and 

discover a new sight. 



microcosm 2005 13 



What if? 



MAMIE COSPER 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

What if one day you realized you were like a swing? 

You carry around the weight of other's not worried about your 
own. 

Back and forth, stirring up some dust here and there. 

Having people stomping in your puddles, and using you for 
games. 

Swinging you around the poles. 

Pushing you higher than you are willing to go. 

But then when it's all over you are to sit in the cold. 

Waiting for the next day. 

When someone new comes along and plays with your heart. 






..--V 






, 



Illustrator: Colt Covington 

14 Microcosm 2005 



Delta Soul 

ANDREW MULLEN SCOTT 
BROOKHAVEN, MISSISSIPPI 

I get this bizarre feeling every time I'm watching the gray moss 

Swing to and fro from an old oak tree. 

It's the same sense I get when I spend long nights 

Looking up at the starry southern sky. 

I can feel it follow me as I stroll down the old antebellum homes of 

Brookhaven's South Jackson Street. 

It's the same one that haunts me while I roam 

Down that of Beale and Bourbon Street. 

It's the same one I feel when I listen to 

Jimmy Buffett, B.B. King, and Elvis Presley. 

It's the same one I get when I read Grisham and Walker, 

Faulkner and Wright, Morris and Welty. 

From New Orleans up to Memphis, 

From Natchez on to Meridian. 

I can feel it lurking inside. 

I feel it in my jazz in the mornings. 

I feel it in my Blues at night. 

It catches me as I walk about Biloxi 

To fill my gaze with another lovely Southern bell. 

It tingles at the sight of Magnolias 

And at river boats on down the Mississippi. 

It's even in the scent of Honeysuckle Vines. 

I feel a delta soul inside. 

And that delta soul feels-Might Fine. 

microcosm 2005 15 



Zero 

LANCE DEVILLE 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

How would you like to be in this world, but not exist. 
To have a name, but no meaning of the title. 
To have a place, but not to know what it is. 

How would you like to be known to the world but forgotten in 
an instance. 

To be the start of infinity, but be lost in the distance. 

To be the holder of a space, but not have a space to hold. 

How would you like to be a negative and positive influence, but 
be considered as neither. 

To be in existence just for show, but not paid any attention. 

To be what no one wants to be, but be needed. 

How would you like to be ZERO. 



16 Microcosm 2005 



The Striped Culotte 



o 



KATIE WAINWRIGHT 
HAMMOND, LOUISIANA 

That morning Catalina put on a new culotte 
made from good quality cotton with a narrow 
blue and white stripe design. Two ruffled straps 
buttoned in front at the waist and went over the 
shoulders, crossed in back and re-buttoned at the 
waist. The outfit was difficult to fasten; the but- 
tonholes not yet stretched by wear, constructed 
under the waistband so that the closure wouldn't 
show. Catalina hadn't wanted to wear it. 

"Your mother made this for you," Carmen, 
the grumpy nanny, said. "With her own hands 
and great motherly love. You are wearing it." 

Late in the afternoon, released from the 
tedium of the American School seventh grade, 
Catalina and her classmates played hide and seek. 
She left the perimeter of her yard and slipped into 
the wooded area sloping gently to the river, the 
knee-high brush scraping against her legs. She walked under the 
guava tree, and the vultures draping the limbs in black made 
whirring, disturbed noises. The ugly birds slit the juicy fruit with 
their curved beaks, devoured the soft pulp, and let the rind fall to 
the ground. 

She nearly crouched behind a dense growth of ironweeds, 
the big, flat leaves a perfect screen. But then she remembered the 
snake Carmen had killed last week in the ironweeds surrounding 
the ceiba tree in the back yard, and thought better of it. It was a 
harmless chicken snake, big around as Catalina' s thigh. When it 
uncoiled and raised up, Eduardo, the gardener, jumped back six 
feet. Carmen grabbed the machete out of his hand, and with one 
expert swing cut off the snake's head. The way she wielded the 
razor-sharp blade made Eduardo look bad and insulted his 
machismo. He sulked for days. Carmen wasn't afraid of snakes or 
anything else. 

Microcosm 2005 17 



A tall clump of mariposas, delicate white ginger lilies with 
fluttering petals shaped like butterflies, seemed a safer hiding 
place. The flowers' strong, cloying scent repelled closeness. The 
plants liked wet feet and Catalina' s leather sandals sank into the 
muddy soil. Nearby, a clear, shallow stream with no name 
gurgled over moss-covered rocks and fallen tree trunks. 

Settling down, Catalina waited expectantly to be found. 

The tropical heat rose in shimmering waves, sapping the life 
out of every moving creature. Birds looking for shade hid in the 
leafy overhead canopy, not twittering. Frogs sank into cool 
ditches and saved their energy for nighttime croaking. Lizards 
hiding in the ferns changed their skins from brown to cooler 
green. At sunset, when the heat waned, hunger would force the 
little creatures to stir about again. 

Echoes drifted through the mahogany, ceiba and banyan 
trees. Catalina heard the others calling, "I caught you!" and the 
trills and laughter as the found one-stepped out of the hiding 
place. 

A cacophony of yells reached her ears. "Catalina! Cata! Lina! 
Lina! Catica!" With each shout she burrowed deeper into her 
hiding place, victory at hand. 

The calls became fainter, then ceased. She knew the ploy. 
Make her think they'd all gone away, so she'd pop her head out 
of this perfect hiding place and get caught. 

Bones still, skin taut, breath held, she waited without mov- 
ing, listening for a falling step, a snapping twig, a flap of the 
vultures' wings. After quite a while when nothing happened, she 
rose slowly and peered over the ginger lilies. A languorous quiet 
enveloped the late afternoon. The humid air hung heavy and still. 

She was looking straight ahead, gazing fixedly at every bush 
and tree trunk, when suddenly from behind, a heavy arm en- 
circled her waist, an arm covered with hairy swirls like black 
widow spiders. 

Not the arm of a classmate. 

She shrieked as the arm jerked her up with great force, 
lifting her off the ground, dangling legs kicking air, body tight 
against his. 

8 Microcosm 2005 



The vultures flapped their wings and shook the guava tree. 

A rough hand muffled Catalina' s scream. The armpit smell 
of his body gagged her. 

Wriggle out of this grip. Kick where it hurts. Take a look at his 
face so the Guardia Rural can stand him blindfolded in front of the 
brown-stained concrete wall. 

She raised her arm, fingers stiff, and jabbed where she 
thought his eyes should be. Her hand slapped his beard, not a 
soft, silky beard like her grandfather's, but a rough, stubby 
growth, uneven and unkempt. 

Her resistance made him angry. His breath came in short 
snorts and smelled foul. He threw Catalina on the damp earth. 
She rolled to one side. He pinned her down with a knee on her 
chest, one mud-encrusted boot planted firmly on the ground. 

He bungled the attempt to rip off her clothes. Her mother 
was an excellent seamstress. She double-stitched all garments. 
She bought only good strong cloth, indestructible material that 
wore well and lasted forever. 

The man fumbled with the culottes buttons. Two in the 
front waistband, two in the back. He didn't know the combina- 
tion. Rough hands with jagged nails tore her skin. 

A scream stuck in the girl's throat, a painful lump of arrested 
breath. 

He found a hidden button, jerked, but it, too, was sewn to 
stay. His fingers worked at passing the button through the 
buttonhole. Her mother made very tight buttonholes. It took 
many washings before they loosened up. 

The pressure of the man's knee drove Catalina into the 
earth. Mud matted her hair and smeared her face. Her fingers 
groped the wet ground and her struggles left brown streaks on 
his clothing. 

He undid the waistband's second button, flung the ruffled 
straps aside, and reached into his pants. 

The panicked scream that tore from Catalina' s frozen throat 
sent the vultures flying off the guava tree. Their wide spread 
wings covered the sun like a black shroud. 

Camouflaged trousers, mud-covered, torn, wet. Important to 

microcosm 2005 19 



remember that. Wet. He came from the river. Must remember that, 
and the beard, and the 

His full weight struck her body with the force of a falling 
boulder, and he toppled, unbalanced, to one side. She saw the 
arm fly left and fall to the ground, fingers clutching air. A warm 
gush soaked her blue and white striped culotte. 

Catalina looked up and in dizzying circles saw green leaves 
and patches of sapphire sky and the silver glint of a machete 
dripping red. 




Illustrator: Jacquelyn Berry 



20 



Microcosm 2005 



Barely Goodbye 

ANNAC. SMITH 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 



He laid there, still, in the cold hospital bed. He looked 
around the pale yellow room. A stroke had sent Ronald there a 
week earlier, and a fever of 107 degrees had kept him there. He 
looked out the window at the gray sky. Any minute, he knew, the 
floodgates of Heaven would open up, and water would begin to 
fall. He had always like the rain. It reminded him of Sarah. His 
lovely Sarah. He looked around the room again and realized she 
was not there. 

"She must've gone to get her a cup a coffee/ 7 he thought. 

His thought returned to the outside. He saw lightening lash 
across the sky. "Any minute now/' he thought. 

His mind drifted back, back to his and Sarah's first date. It 
was autumn 1955, and they had just left the picture show. He 
could not remember what film they had seen, but he remem- 
bered everything about her. She was dressed in a pale blue cotton 
dress, with a matching ribbon in her hair that pulled her golden 
blonde hair away from her face. Her beautiful face. It had taken 
him over a month to finally ask her out because every time he 
would look at her he would forget everything he had rehearsed 
saying. He finally got the nerve one day, and when she smiled 
and laughed politely and said, "Well it took you long enough to 
ask me, I guess it would be a shame if I didn't/ 7 he could not 
believe it. 

The night has gone by too quickly, though, and as he began 
to walk her home, it began to rain. Not a hard rain, just enough 
to get someone soaked as they walked in it. He thought she 
would have gotten upset at her getting wet, because he knew 
how particular she was about it, but she just laughed and twirled 
around in it. He wanted to just stand back and watch her, but she 
would not allow it. She asked him to dance, and he simply could 
not tell her "no." So, they danced, all the way to her house. He 
was still a little scared of her, so he did not even think about 
trying to kiss her. So, he shook her hand goodnight and walked 

Microcosm 2005 21 



back to his house. He laughed at this memory now. Forty-nine 
years and two children later, their love was as strong as ever. He 
could not wait to get out of this bed and return to his home. 

Later that day, he watched as his children walked in. He 
remembered when each of them was born. The joy that he had 
felt in those moments now returned to him. Kevin, born on that 
hot summer day in the middle of July, and Molly, born on that 
snowy winter morning in the start of February. Just like the 
months they were born in, so were they. No two people were as 
different as they were. Kevin was always making someone laugh, 
and he had a heart for little children, too. He would guard his 
little sister almost anywhere, except at home, of course, because 
he always vied for the attention from their parents. He eventually 
got older, but did not exactly grow up, and got married to a 
police officer named Loraine. He, too, became a police officer and 
started one of the first anti-tobacco programs for kids after 
school. Molly, on the other hand, was a lot more composed. She 
spoke when she was spoken to, and laughed only when it was 
appropriate. Her hobby of photography as a teenager later be- 
came her career. She began to do freelance for different maga- 
zines after she got married to a youth minister named Trevor. 

Ronald looked at them now, all grown up. His children 
now had children of their own, Kevin with two boys, and Molly 
with one girl and three boys. He could tell they had been crying, 
and he wondered for what reason. His daughter sat down next to 
him and held his hand. Kevin stood behind her. 

"Hi Daddy," she said. "I love you." Tears began to fill her 
eyes. 

"Don't cry over me," he wanted to say , but his voice would 
not let him speak. 

"I don't know what I'm going to do without you, but I know 
you'll be watching over me," she continued. She really did not 
know what she would do. He had always given her anything she 
needed, and he was always there when she called. If she ran out 
of milk, he would grab the carton out of his own refrigerator and 
bring it to her. 

"Molly Dolly, I'm not going anywhere." He wanted so much 
to tell her that he was always going to be there, but the words 

22 Microcosm 2005 



simply would not come out. 'Til see you when I get there/' she 
whispered as she leaned over and kissed his cheek. Then she 
turned and buried her face in her brother's shoulder. Kevin had 
never been a very emotional person, but he slowly raised his arms 
around her. He tried to postpone the inevitable for as long as he 
could. Once Molly quit sobbing, he let her go. It was now his 
turn. 

"How you doin', ole man?" he light-heartedly said. 

"Just swell," he thought. "Don't you worry 'bout me. I'll be 
getting' outta here before you know it." Again, the words would 
not come out. He became frustrated. He wanted to try to speak, 
but his strength was gone. So, he just laid there and listened to 
what his son had to say. 

"So, this is it," he began. "Well, I'm not very good with 
words so I guess I'll come on out with it." His eyes slowly lifted 
from the floor, where they had been locked ever since he entered 
the room. He looked at his father, lying there helplessly. It was 
the first time he had seen him powerless, dependent on everyone 
else and not able to do anything for himself. He hated seeing him 
like this. Where was his invincible dad? The man that could do 
anything? The only thing Kevin could say was, "Love ya." 

He patted him on the shoulder as he stood up, not sure of 
what to do next. Ronald lifted his hand and put it atop of his 
son's. Kevin continued to stare at the wall in fear that if he looked 
down at his father he would crumble. He had no choice, though. 
He looked down for just long enough. He could not help but to 
bend down and embrace him. Ronald was caught off guard. He 
had never seen his son like this before. He knew something must 
have been wrong, terribly wrong. Kevin pulled back and turned 
around to Molly. 

They both waited there with him for the rest of the day. 
They swapped stories of kids, and relived old memories of their 
own childhood. Ronald listened and watched. It was the only 
thing he could do. He began to realize that his time was running 
out. This was one of the last times that he would see his children 
here on this earth. He grew angry and irritated. The daylight 
gradually faded and the clouds cleared so the stars could come 
out. His children were still there when he drifted back to sleep, 
but not before he looked at them one long time, possibly the last. 

Microcosm 2005 23 



He woke up the next morning, wondering why he was still 
here. His children were gone, and the sun was shining through 
his window. He did not want to be here. He wanted to be at his 
own house, waking up in his own bed, next to his gorgeous wife. 
He missed his house, his lake, his dogs, and his yard that his 
Sarah had been constantly working on. It never seemed to ever 
be finished. He longed to go back there, but it could never be. He 
knew this deep down, but he still prayed for a miracle. He did 
not want to leave his Sarah, his family, his life. 

He was only sixty-six years old. It was not his time. There 
were so many things he wanted to do, like watch his grandkids 
grow up. His beautiful grandkids. Out of the six, he had only one 
girl. One beautiful girl named Carrie. She was the picture perfect 
image of her mother, Molly. Now the boys could be a bit ram- 
bunctious, but she could hold her own. He almost began to cry 
just thinking about her. She would have to look after his Sarah. 
Not that she would need any help, but he knew how lonely she 
would get in that house all by herself. They were both retired, so 
without him to cook for and talk to, she would have to keep busy 
on her own. Ronald did not want to leave her like that. He 
prayed that he would have just a few more days, a few more days 
to spend with his Sarah. Then he would go without a fight. He 
looked out the window and got lost in the sunlight as he fell back 
to sleep. 

He was in a fog for the rest to the day, coming in and out of 
consciousness. He heard doctors and nurses going in and out, 
saying things to his wife, but he could not understand them. 
When he did finally wake up, the room was empty yet again. He 
stared at the ceiling for what seemed like an eternity. After what 
felt like hours, the door opened and his Sarah walked in. He 
nearly lost his breath at the sight of her. It was like seeing her for 
the very first time, and he smiled. She was wearing a pale blue 
dress, and had a matching ribbon in her hair. She walked over 
and leaned down to kiss him. 

"I love you," she said. He wanted desperately to say it back. 
He could hear the tears and pain in her voice. How could he 
leave her behind? She sat down next to him on the bed and 
grabbed his hand. "We've been through so much. How can I say 
goodby?" She barely got the words out before the tears came. He 

24 Microcosm 2005 



hated to see her like this. He had always done anything he could 
to ease her pain, but this was one time he could not. 

She stared out the window, and he could tell she was think- 
ing about what to say next. He stared at her, knowing that she 
wanted to say something, but the words would not come. He 
knew she loved him; she did not have to say anything else. They 
have been together for forty-nine years, so there really was not 
anything left to say. The fact that she was there was good enough 
for him. 

They sat there until the sky grew dark. He had had a lot of 
time to think, and he finally had come to a conclusion. He knew 
what he had to do. He had to let go. He had to finally accept 
what was unavoidable. He was going to die. He was not going to 
be here any longer. He would not see his family, his Sarah, and 
she was not going to see him anymore, He had been scared this 
whole time that once he had to come to this realization, then it 
would come true, and it had. 

He squeezed her hand. She took her gaze away from the 
window, where it had been for so long, and she bent down to 
him. 

"Oh, I love you so much/ she whispered in his ear. 

"I love you , too/ 7 he said at last. Sarah leaned back, speech- 
less. Did he actually say that? Or was it her imagination? Either 
way, it did not matter, because she had heard him. Ronald took 
one last, long look at his Sarah. Then, he went. 

She kissed her hand and put it to his lips, and said, "Until 
we meet again." 



Ylicrocosm 2005 25 




Illustrator: Garrett May 



26 



Microcosm 2005 




Illustrator: Garrett May 



Microcosm 2005 



27 



A Long Ride Home 

MEGAN RUSSELL 
BROOKHAVEN, MISSISSIPPI 

Naomi sat nervously on the bench waiting for her train. She 
knew if anyone recognized her now she would never get away. 
And for Naomi getting away from this one horse town-and her 
father-was a must. The midnight train to New York should have 
been there twenty minutes ago-and as the hands on the clock 
steadily moved, Naomi grew more and more anxious. She also 
had to me on her hands-time to do what she had grown to hate — 
think. Her mind wandered back to two days ago on her steamy 
front yard after that miserable August rain. How could her father 
expect her to give up her dreams, how could he demand her to 
marry Bill and be the house wife of a carpenter the rest of her 
life? Bill was a good man, but Naomi dreamed of love, and was 
not ready to settle for someone her dad needed for business. 

As the noisy train pulled into the station at forty-five min- 
utes past twelve, Naomi's thoughts came to a sudden halt. She 
quietly climbed on board and quickly found a seat. She was 
finally able to breath a small sigh of relief, not all the weight had 
lifted from her shoulders yet, but Naomi knew getting on the 
train was the first step. She had three and half hours before the 
train made its next stop, and all ten of the train's passengers were 
fast asleep. Once again, Naomi had time to think, Her mind 
wandered back to that hot Delta night. Her dad had seemed 
understanding all her life, it was hard even for her to believe that 
Bill could talk him into this. There was just something about that 
man that bothered her — perhaps it was the way he spoke to her, 
like she was beneath him; or maybe the way he touched her, like 
he could take her at any moment; but most of all it was the 
manipulation he went about to make her his wife. He never even 
tried to win her heart the way a real man would have. 

The train began rolling to stop, tearing Naomi out of her 
memories. She slid to the inside seat, trying to become invisible; 
fearing that someone would recognize her. Five minutes, and 
thirty passengers later that train pulled out ot the station. A man, 
probably in his early thirties, filled the seat next to Naomi. For 

28 Microcosm 2005 



some reason he immediately caught her attention and she found 
herself fighting to stare at him. With chestnut skin, auburn hair, 
and dark thoughtful brown eyes she wondered what could be 
going on in that mind of his to put that look of despair on his 
face. It was still dark outside, and all the new passengers were 
getting situated and slowly drifting to join the others in sleep. But 
not the curious stranger next to her, he was sitting there seeming 
to be as deep in thought as she had been just moments before. 

Naomi spent the next hour drifting in and out of a fitful 
sleep, and trying to figure out the stranger next to her. As the sun 
began rising, Naomi's stranger finally introduced himself. His 
name was Harrison White, and as they spoke Naomi was filled 
with an odd sense of relief, although she didn't really know why. 
She felt as if she had known Harrison all her life, and it seemed 
he felt the same way. She had the desire to learn about this 
stranger, and what exactly had been troubling him earlier. "I've 
been watching you since you boarded, what is it that's left those 
worry lines in your brow?" Naomi asked. 

So Harrison told her, he told he had ran away from his 
alcoholic mother and abusive father when he was just fifteen 
years old, and spending three hard years on the streets before he 
found work with a woodsman. And he told her he he grew closer 
and close to his boss and his wife-he eventually became the son 
the two could never have. And when Harrison's boss died, 
shortly after his wife, the now family business was left in his 
hands. For the past three years he had been running the shop 
with no problem, but now their main supplier had suddenly 
dropped out of the business and off the face of the earth so it 
seemed to Harrison. So, Naomi listened and learned of his prob- 
lems; with no one to cut and sell him wood, he couldn't continue 
meeting his customers' needs. As the wheels in her head began 
turning, Naomi tried to conceal her smile from her new found 
friend. She wanted the rest of their journey to New York to be a 
time for Harrison to get to know her, not to learn about her 
father's business. 

The train's wheels rolled steadily as Naomi and Harrison 
chatted. By the time the train arrived in New York, the two knew 
most everything about each other, except what they were both 
going to do in the city. They found a small cafe close to the train 

Microcosm 2005 29 



station and ordered a light supper. Naomi knew it was time to 
propose her idea to Harrison-and she hoped and prayed he 
would like her idea. As the steamy soup was brought to the table, 
Naomi began telling Harrison of her father's struggling lumber 
business and why she had to get out of the Delta. 

As her story unfolded, Harrison couldn't hide his excite- 
ment. Naomi, and her father were the answer to his prayers. The 
only thing left for the two of them to do was to let her father in 
on the plan. Naomi found a phone on the corner, and rung her 
father. She told him of Harrison, and her plan to save both of 
their businesses. As she finished, she held her breath waiting her 
father's response. When he nervously said that sounded like a 
good idea, Naomi was overcome with joy. The next morning she 
and Harrison boarded another train, only this time it was heading 
back to the Delta. 

The long train ride gave the two of them another chance to 
learn each other. And as the train pulled into the station Naomi 
had started at just days before, they both knew they met for more 
reasons than business. The next week was a time for her father to 
get to know Harrison, and on the day the two signed a business 
contract Naomi and Harrison announced their engagement. The 
two of them excitedly told everyone in the small town, and for 
some reason Bill was no longer anywhere to be found. Not only 
did her dad find a life-long business partner, but Naomi found a 
life-long companion in Harrison, her husband and the love of her 
life. 



30 Microcosm 2005 




Illustrator: Colt Covington 



[icrocosm 2005 



31 



It's Not Always Gonna Be 
Sunny and 75 Degrees 

GABRIEL MORLEY 
TYLERTOWN, MISSISSIPPI 

I just found out Deslatte died. He fell off a wireless tower 
near Austin, Texas, on a clear, sunny day. He was 27 years old. He 
was 6 foot 3. He weighed about 220 pounds and his body always 
looked strong. He had long, powerful arms. He had a hairy chest. 
He had dark eyes and dark hair and the softest voice I've ever 
heard. He told me once that he wanted to be a college professor. 

I read in the newspaper that Deslatte' s dad was on the same 
work crew as his son and watched from the ground as Deslatte 
fell 200 feet. I think of him standing there, looking up into the 
sun and shielding his eyes from the reflection on the metal tower 
watching Deslatte as he was lowered on a rope — watching to 
make sure nothing happened. Then that shocking, desperate, 
awful feeling in his throat and stomach like someone suddenly 
crammed a vacuum hose in his mouth to suck the life out of him. 
Thinking if he could only catch him. Or get to him in time. Or 
that some other unnamed miracle would swoop in and cushion 
his only son from such terrible danger. Holding his breath. 

One thousand one... one thousand two... one thousand 
three... one thousand four... one thousand five... one thousand 
six... one thousand seven... Exactly that long. 

Timothy P. Deslatte saved my life one night in the north 
Florida woods in October 1994. Our unit had been in the woods 
for 10 days with one MRE per day and two or three or four hours 
sleep each night — running for miles in that soft, white, Gulf sand 
in our black polished boots with 80-pound packs slung on our 
backs — land navigating in blackout conditions, terrified of vines 
or ghosts or whatever it is that reaches out to grab you on such 
nameless nights — fording the same swollen swamp where four 
Army ranger students would die of exposure only three months 
later — digging holes to lay in at night while we guarded the camp 
perimeter in that salty-smelling emptiness — all the while crying 

32 Microcosm 200.' 



to ourselves in the anonymity and eventual sanctity of that 
palmetto flurried blackness. Oh, mama. 

Our squad had accomplished its mission and arrived at the 
rally point ahead of schedule. We dropped our packs slightly into 
the woods, off the road for cover. Four of us. I was 20 years old. 
Deslatte was 19. I'm pretty sure Justin Mallon was there. He was 
21, which meant he was in charge. His dad was a general or 
colonel or something. His brother was some kind of military hero 
too, or wanted to be. Mallon hated the military. He hated the big 
wigs. But there was nothing else for him. He had washed out of 
para-rescue school and volunteered to join up with us. We were 
supposed to call in air strikes on enemy targets. Mallon went 
from learning how to save lives to studying how to steal them 
away. He was loud and gruff and belligerent, but I always wanted 
him around. I didn't care if he was in charge or not. I knew he 
would protect me. 

Mallon was sleeping, sitting up with his whole body 
scrunched under his poncho and his hood pulled over his head. I 
can't remember who else was there. Maybe Stinky. Maybe Aaron. 
My mind escapes me now, just as it did then. 

I was delirious and starved and shivering cold. My BDUs 
were soaking wet and weighed about 800 pounds. I had been 
jogging in little circles in a clearing, doing the combat shuffle 
through the sand and singing some nonsense to myself trying to 
warm up and stay awake. We were waiting at our rendezvous 
point. The rest of our unit was to meet us there in several hours. 
Our radios were useless in the rain. Besides, what would we have 
said. "We're cold. We're tired. Can you come get us?" 

Finally, exhausted and weary, I lay down in a puddle and 
curled up as best I could in wet clothes, on wet sand, in freezing 
rain, with soggy, wrinkled feet in 20 pound boots. My teeth were 
chattering non-stop. My whole body was jerking with cold. Then, 
at some point, my body relaxed and I closed my eyes. 
I don't know how long I slept, but when I opened my eyes 
Deslatte was calling my name. He came lumbering out of the 
pitch dark pines like some ghastly figure slumped against the 
shadows and the freezing rain. He like a dream to me. Lifting me 
and guiding me back into the woods. He could have been the 
Angel of Death, but for his voice. 

Microcosm 2005 33 



"I didn't hear you singing anymore," he said. "I came to 
check on you. You can't go to sleep, man." He put his arm 
around me. "We've got to get you warmed up. You're getting 
hypothermia." 

Deslatte wrapped me in his space-age, camoflauge blanket, 
one of those that weighs nothing but keeps you warm somehow. 
He told Mallon to get up, and Mallon told him to shut the hell 
up. He kicked Mallon' s boot and told him again to get up. Mallon 
simply shifted his feet so that Deslatte couldn't kick them any- 
more. 

"Get up and go get some wood," Deslatte said. "We've got to 
make a fire and get him warmed up." 

"You're not allowed to start a fire," Mallon said. "It's a 
friggin park or nature preserve or something. And everything's 
wet. So shut the hell up. He should have brought his poncho." 

I should have brought my poncho. I just didn't pack it. It 
was my own fault. It was more weight to lug around and I didn't 
think I'd need it. Deslatte and the other guy who I can't remem- 
ber went into the woods and scrounged up armloads of sticks 
while I sat with my knees pulled up to my chest underneath the 
blanket trying to stay warm. Mallon never budged. 

They dumped the sticks in a pile and sprinkled leaves on 
top. It was all sopping wet and the rain was still pouring down. 
Deslatte tried to make a little tipi out of the sticks and shelter 
some pine cones underneath. But it was useless. They had a little 
lipstick capsule of waterproof matches but everything was too 
wet. The matches lit, but nothing else did. Deslatte wouldn't look 
at me. 

"Get up, Mallon, and take off your poncho," Deslatte said. 

"Shut up." 

"Just give me your poncho, Mallon." 

"Use your own damn poncho." 

"I didn't pack my poncho." 

I will never forget Deslatte for saying that. I will never forget 
the way he said it as if he was casting his lot with me then and 
there no matter what it might hold. It made me feel less alone. 

Deslatte and I had only spoken a few times. He heard that I 

34 Microcosm 2005 



had lived in Slidell. He had lived there too, briefly. I think he told 
me he lived there with his mother. If I recall, his father was 
retired from the military. Deslatte had grown up all over Europe 
and gone to Defense Department schools. I'm sure he spoke two 
languages. He had backpacked around Europe. He was certainly 
different. In a way, all of us were different then. But he was quiet 
and friendly and I know he must have seen how afraid I was 
because he always tried to encourage me. He liked baseball. 

I don't recall ever asking him if he had been to college. Or 
about his family. He told me all about Germany. He told me he 
bought a Mercedes for $5 from a guy who was being shipped 
back to the U.S. A diesel, I think. I told him I wanted be an 
English professor. He said he wanted to be a college professor 
too. I wish I knew what subject. He liked history, I remember 
that. I don't know why after 10 years, but I remember it. We were 
sitting side-by-side on a cheap, orange couch outside the 
breakroom of a military classroom eating fruit pies. Just talking 
about nothing. Just glad to be young and alive. I remember all 
that. 

They only had a few matches left. My teeth were chattering. 
At some point, Mallon got up, took off his poncho and barked at 
me to get up and hold part of it. He held an edge and the other 
guy held what was left. We made a canopy over the sticks to 
block the rain. Deslatte dug through his rucksack for anything 
dry that might catch on fire. The little tidbits of paper he found 
merely burned themselves out. The sticks were too wet. We were 
losing matches and now Mallon and Deslatte were shivering too. 

Deslatte went to his pack again and this time pulled out a 
smoke canister. He looked at Mallon. Perhaps for some recogni- 
tion. Perhaps for some permission. Perhaps a denial. Who could 
say? But shivering in that wet night, being 21 years old, being 
responsible for the lives of men, being Mallon, he told Deslatte to 
fire it up. 

It's hard to concentrate the heat from a smoke canister 
because the force of the smoke being emitted causes the canister 
to ricochet around on the ground. Sparks shoot out like fire- 
works. It's combustion. Normally, you're in an open area and the 
canister is able to squirrel around all over the place creating a 
colored cloud of smoke to signal aircraft. But Deslatte wanted to 

microcosm 2005 35 



focus the heat on our sticks to dry them out. So he had to open 
the canister and then try to get it under the tipi of sticks while we 
held the poncho over the whole thing. Then we had to hope the 
canister wouldn't squirt out from underneath the poncho or 
fizzle in the sand without drying anything. We had to hope we 
didn't get smoked out. We had to hope the poncho didn't catch 
on fire. 

Deslatte set it off. Then he tossed it under the poncho into 
the pile of sticks. It whirled around as long as we could see it 
before orange smoke filled the camp like thick fog. It made a 
high-pitched squeal and we could see little sparks shooting out of 
the canister. When the canister was empty, Deslatte held a match 
to a pine cone and it lit. Then he balanced another pine cone 
against the one on fire. The little fire erupted and Deslatte went 
to get more pine limbs. He tended the fire while we held off the 
rain. It was warm and full and got so hot we had to keep turning 
around from front to back so we wouldn't get burned. It smelled 
so good. 

Several hours later, one of our instructors showed up and 
chewed us out for lighting a fire. Deslatte told him he did it 
because we were cold and wet, and above all we were supposed 
to look out for each other. The instructor told us to get our gear 
and get in the Hummer. As we were leaving, he kicked over the 
sticks and stamped out the fire. Then Deslatte went back to help 
him cover up the whole thing. The instructor asked him how he 
started a fire in the rain with wet wood. Deslatte told him what 
we did. He just shook his head. 

He drove us to an airfield where we were supposed to meet 
the rest of the unit and dropped us off. Staff Sergeant Finn 
showed up about 20 minutes later with the rest of the guys. We 
all marched together back to camp, packed up our tents and 
loaded it all into the back of a deuce and went home. We rode 
home on top of our A-bags, in the rain. The cold bit our faces if 
we looked up to see where we were. I was freezing again. I tried 
to snuggle under our gear, but it was wet too. I don't know 
where Deslatte was or what he was doing. Many times since then 
I have longed to be back in front of that fire smelling it and 
feeling it wrap me up. 

I don't have any other memories of Deslatte. I don't know 

36 Microcosm 2005 



where he was stationed after that. Sometimes I think he went to 
Ft. Drum. Sometimes I think he went to Ft. Hood with Smitty. I 
want to remember that he came to Ft. Polk once, but I can't place 
him there. 

In July 2002, 1 did a search for Deslatte on the Internet. I was 
at work. It was before noon. I wondered what happened to him. I 
found out that two months prior, he had fallen off a wireless 
tower in Texas. I found out Deslatte married a girl named 
Samantha. He had two young children and Samantha was eight 
months pregnant with their third child. She was living in New 
Braunfels, Texas, 600 miles from where they buried Deslatte in 
Wadesboro Catholic Church Cemetery in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. 
I found out his dad was on the same tower work crew. 

I had not seen Deslatte or spoken to him in eight years. But 
for some reason, I searched for him on the Internet that day. 
Maybe I heard him stop singing and just wanted to check on 
him. But I was too late. 

We were supposed to look out for each other. 

I immediately did a search for Mallon. Nothing. But I'm still 
looking. He might need a poncho. 

I think about Deslatte 7 s little children; the few things I have 
that I could offer them; what little I know about their father as a 
young man; what only I may know that might make all the 
difference in their own lives. 

When my own children are older and ask me who my hero 
is, I will tell them that one night in the north Florida woods 
Timothy Paul Deslatte saved my life. 



microcosm 2005 37 




Illustrator: Larry Foster 



38 



Microcosm 2005 



Precious 

CRAIG DONALD CASE 
COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

It's funny, sometimes, to see what different people hold 
dear. One person could care so deeply about a certain something, 
deeply enough to reach out and love — while another person, 
maybe even the world itself, could casually spit on the same 
thing. 

This is a story partly about human nature and partly about 
inexplicable fate; it is also completely true. I'll say that it hap- 
pened in a little rural town called Creekharbor, even though it 
didn't — because the setting's unimportant. I'll say that it involved 
a little awkward boy named Scott, even though that wasn't his 
name — because it doesn't matter who he was. All that matters is 
that he cared about something pure. 

Once upon a time, a baby named Scott came into this world 
during a gentle but constant snowfall. Unblemished sparkles of 
white floated down from the peaceful sky as his parents drove 
him to their home on Fortune Street, where two much older 
children awaited him. Scott grew up healthily in a good home, 
for the most part. His father was rarely home because of his job. 
His mother loved him very much, but was sick a lot of the time 
and didn't know what to do when Scott's brother would tell him 
to go away or when his sister would threaten to kill him. 

Scott excelled in school without really trying — in academics, 
at least. The little boy desperately wanted to be liked and to have 
friends, going so far as to even give presents to random children 
in an attempt to befriend them. Unfortunately, Scott's enthusi- 
asm and naivety was so great that he mostly caused other kids to 
regard him with disdain and to take advantage of him. He made 
one good friend, though: an exuberant, outgoing boy named 
Owen. 

Scott and Owen were constant friends throughout the years, 
though Owen occasionally distanced himself from Scott due to 
his other friends not liking him. Scott was just a pudgy boy who 
stuttered a lot, but he had a big heart. It wounded him when 

Microcosm 2005 39 



other children looked down on him, but more than anything he 
felt love for creatures that were fragile and precious. 

One winter evening, Scott was hanging out at Owen's 
house, sitting out on the back porch and talking with his friend 
about the silly things boys their age speak of. Scott liked Owen's 
house, because Owen's father lived in another state and his 
mother, Helen, was almost never home; Scott was too young to 
think of this as anything but an opportunity to be as loud or as 
quiet as they wished. It just so happened that night they were 
being quiet, and a starving calico cat sauntered up out of the 
black night, looking for food. 

Scott loved cats, despite the fact they almost always ran 
away from him as quickly as possible. He immediately took pity 
on the shriveled feline and, after asking Owen's permission, 
silently used some baloney from the refrigerator to make a trail 
leading into the house. Scott and Owen hid themselves, and after 
a while the cat's hunger overcame her suspicion. Once she was in 
the middle of the living room, Scott shut the door, scaring the 
poor old cat nigh out of her mind. 

After about an hour of hiding behind the couch, the cat 
gradually realized the gentle boys who gave her food and led her 
into the warm place meant no harm. She slowly came out of her 
hiding place and slinked about, exploring the house, until finally 
she became comfortable and let Scott pet her. The cat purred 
contentedly, and her and Scott both began to think life wasn't so 
bad after all. 

Scott knew his mother wouldn't let him have any pets, but 
Owen agreed to take care of her. So she stayed there, with Scott 
coming to visit often, and was treated well; she was fed often and 
even allowed to come in and out of the house as she wished, 
because Owen had a sliding door he kept slightly ajar for her. 

Scott spent the night at Owen's house several months later, 
spread out haphazardly on the couch in the living room as usual. 
The following morning, the cat, now quite plump, awakened him 
by licking his hand. Groggily, Scott smiled and ran his palm 
softly over her fuzzy head. She meowed happily in response, 
then ran out the gap in the sliding door; Scott closed his eyes 
again. Another meow disturbed him once more. The cat had 
returned, standing at the door, looking directly at him. Figuring 

40 Microcosm 2005 



she wanted to be fed, Scott rose amiably and followed her out- 
side. 

The cat lay down in a little space she had chosen under the 
frame of the trailer's wooden steps. As unlikely and bizarre as it 
may sound, she proceeded to give birth right there in front of the 
astonished boy. Turning away, Scott recalled distantly that his 
mother once told him animals didn't take kindly to humans being 
around their newborns. He'd even been told that animals would 
disown offspring which had the scent of humans on them. Yet 
here was this stray who had practically asked him to be present at 
the birth of her children. 

As I said before, Scott had a big heart. I don't know how 
other people would interpret this, but Scott decided the cat 
wished for him to look after her babies. He, a social outcast with 
very few friends, was profoundly touched that any creature 
would trust him in such a way. He felt honored, as though he'd 
been entrusted with a sacred duty. He resolved to do all in his 
power to fulfill this duty — it was a vow which would cause him 
much sadness. 

Scott stood watch the rest of the day from a small distance 
away. When Owen awoke, Scott told him in a reverent tone of 
what had taken place; Owen thought it was the strangest thing 
he'd ever heard of. Several minutes passed in silence as the boys 
watched the joyously beaming mother dote over her newly born 
kittens as they mewed and stretched about in blindness. Seeing 
some dogs drawing near, Scott took up a stick and ran them off 
diligently; Owen thought him to be completely insane. 

Momma — as the cat came to be called — raised her young 
ones with constant attention and love. The kittens could always 
be seen in Owen's back yard, playing and sneaking and laying 
about. Most of them were very friendly, with little fear of the 
humans who had been so good to them. Scott visited even more 
often than before, making sure they were all still being fed and 
cared for — his mother allowed him to take one for himself, an 
orange and white bob-tailed kitten who was the most easy going 
thing God had ever made. 

Owen and his mother Helen had taken a liking to two 
kittens in particular. Both of them were white little things who 
were very cute and fluffy compared to their siblings. Helen 

Microcosm 2005 41 



named them Crystal and Coke, and let them stay inside while the 
lesser kittens had to stay outside with Momma. Scott felt sorry for 
them, but never in his worst nightmares did he imagine what 
would happen next. 

Helen eventually began to resent all the money she was 
losing due to cat food. She needed that money to support the 
habits of her nightlife and couldn't find anyone to take the rest of 
them. I will never know how she brought herself to it, but she 
paid a man down the road to get rid of them. So on a cool after- 
noon while Owen was at Scott's house, she stepped outside with 
the food bowl in her hand. The cats ran up, meowing adoringly 
to the woman who had so often nourished them. She laid the 
food down and took the protesting Crystal and Coke into the 
house with her as the others crowded around the bowl, never 
suspecting anything. Helen picked up the phone and called her 
neighbor from down the road. 

He drove up in his truck and parked a good ways away from 
the cats. He stepped out, taking his double-barrel shotgun in his 
hand. I often wonder what emotions the man felt as he pulled the 
trigger. Was his sadness overcome by his need for money? I also 
wonder what exactly is the difference between that man, Helen, 
and people like Scott. They all grew up in the same small town, 
and they all believed in the same compassionate God. Most of all, 
I wish I knew why they had to die. 

Owen told Scott about the killing a week later. The poor boy, 
utterly devastated, withdrew to his room for a long time; those 
were some of the saddest days of his life. He skipped school and 
scarcely ate at all for a week, mourning the loss of precious 
friends and his failure to protect them. Time eventually healed 
Scott to an extent, and he went on with his life; he even started 
visiting Owen's house again after a month. He took consolation 
in the fact that three of Momma's children remained alive and 
happy, blissfully unaware of mankind's cruelty. 

Life went on. During a harsh winter a few years later, Helen 
changed the antifreeze in her car and was too tired from her 
usual activities to do anything more than leave the chemicals on 
the ground. Coke, always curious, happened upon the antifreeze 
and tasted of it liberally. Not long thereafter, Coke became lethar- 
gic and vomited whenever he tried to eat anything. Since he was 

42 Microcosm 2005 



making a mess in the house, Helen and Owen sent him outside 
and refused to let him in whenever he weakly scratched at the 
door. 

A few nights later, Scott came over and saw Coke outside, 
alone, in the biting winter chill — just like Momma. Disgusted, 
Scott asked Owen for the reason he'd left his pet outside in the 
cold. Owen looked away, and he responded that Coke was sick 
and throwing up in the house. Feeling sick himself, Scott stared 
at his friend with disappointment and asked why the cat had not 
been taken to a veterinarian. Owen, who had been talking about a 
new video game he bought last week, said they didn't have the 
money for it. Scott shook his head and went home. He couldn't 
sleep at all that night. 

The next morning, Scott arrived at Owen's, picked the weak 
cat up, put him in a pet carrier in his car, and drove him to the 
local veterinarian's clinic. He paid for Coke's treatment himself. 
He sat in the waiting room, praying. When the door opened 
again, the veterinarian brought out a much healthier looking 
Coke, and said he'd be just fine. 

Scott took Coke home with him and gave him the love and 
attention he received when he was still a cute kitten. He kept 
Coke in his room with him that night, though his mother insisted 
he be kept in a pet carrier with a garbage bag surrounding it to 
avoid the carpet being ruined. Before he went to bed, Scott put 
Coke in his lap and petted him for a long time, glad he was able 
to help. Coke purred softly, comforted at last. 

The next morning, Scott awoke to see Coke having a violent 
seizure in his cage. Confused and concerned, he flew out of bed 
and went to the cage and saw the cat shaking uncontrollably, 
making pathetic sounds. Knowing not what else to do, Scott 
opened the cage, and Coke flopped out onto the garbage bag, 
staring up at Scott with crazed blue eyes. In the tortured animal's 
death wails, Scott could empathically hear the cries for help — 
cries that Scott could do nothing for. And so Coke died, writhing 
on that garbage bag. Never has any human being cried more 
bitterly over a cat than Scott did that day. 

Momma's two other children lived peacefully, until they 
both disappeared into the wilderness years later. Scott went on to 
find a woman who could appreciate a weird but caring guy and 

Microcosm 2005 43 



has never wanted for anything since — except he wishes he could 
have done more for the innocent creatures he swore to protect. 
The moral of this very true, very real series of events lies not, I 
think, in Scott's failure — but rather in the fact that despite the 
world's innate darkness, he tried to bring light. Everything and 
everyone dies, but because of one man's love, a few insignificant 
beings knew some happiness where without him, they would' ve 
known only misery. Is that not significant in itself? Is that not 
worth living for? Though it is often contrary to human nature, 
and though it is often defying fate, people should always reach 
out to that which is precious. One shining moment of goodness 
and joy, even amidst an ocean of pain, can make life worth living. 




Illustrator: Amber Sbravati 



44 



Microcosm 2005 



I Can Spot One 

NICK STEIN 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

Mrs. Harvey watched as her new homeroom students came 
through the doorway of the room that would be their weekday 
destination for the next nine months. She examined each face as 
they entered and greeted them with a warm smile. They seemed 
to be a good bunch of frustrating, perfectly ordinary, seventeen- 
year-olds. As the bell rang, she waited a few moments longer for 
the stragglers that would undoubtedly be late for the first day of 
class. She looked down at her attendance book to double check 
the numbers, then glanced up again as one last young man 
sauntered into the classroom. Mrs. Harvey stared at him appre- 
hensively and he stared back with cold, uncaring eyes. A familiar 
feeling came over Mrs. Harvey as the cold grip of fear held her 
speechless. 

Nathan had straight, blond hair that came down to his 
shoulders and eyes of such a dark blue that they appeared en- 
tirely black at first glance. He was dressed much like the others in 
the room, wearing beige khakis and an untucked T-shirt. Most 
teachers wouldn't have thought of him as any different from the 
rest of the kids, but Mrs. Harvey knew he was. His eyes held hers 
for only a second before he broke the connection and headed 
towards the only empty desk, nodding and half smiling to a few 
classmates on his way. It was only a second, but it was long 
enough. Mrs. Harvey shuddered and closed her eyes. It was 
happening again. 

"I can always tell/' she thought, "I can spot one in an in- 
stant, and I better stop him now before he can do anything." 
Nathan would be the fifth student she had noticed in this way. 
Regretfully, at least to Mrs. Harvey, he would only be the third 
upon which she had taken action. Early in her teaching career, 
there had been two others. She had done nothing about these 
students, and she still held herself personally responsible for the 
tragic heartbreak that they had caused. She had known but done 
nothing. She always knew. Mrs. Harvey wasn't sure how she 

Microcosm 2005 45 



knew what she did. She didn't see herself as having any special 
powers, and she hadn't ever dreamed things before they hap- 
pened. She was never any good at predicting the sex of her 
friends', and her love life was proof enough that she was no 
psychic. Yet, for some reason unknown to her, Mrs. Harvey 
could always spot a future killer. Their eyes always gave them 
away. There was a certain cold, dead look in their eyes that was 
obvious, and Nathan had that look. 

The first time she had spotted future killer, she had only 
been teaching for three years. She kidded herself about having an 
overactive imagination and had treated Brian with the same 
respect and kindness that she showed all her students. Only a 
year later, Brian had strangled his girlfriend to death after a 
drunken argument at a party. The memory of the second one, 
Teddy, still haunted Mrs. Harvey's dreams and woke her up in a 
cold sweat at least once a week. Teddy had been in her class only 
four years after Brian, and she had once again known immedi- 
ately but done nothing. Teddy took longer to start killing but 
made up for lost time. Before finally being captured and con- 
victed at the age of thirty-six, he had brutally stabbed and muti- 
lated fourteen people. 

Many years passed before Mrs. Harvey saw the look in any 
of her students' eyes, but when she did, she vowed to take action 
herself before more were hurt. The action she took was in the 
form of an "accident" alone a nearby river. Eric was walking 
home, late as always, when he must have fallen in the water and 
drowned. Without motive, there was never a hint of suspicion 
surrounding Mrs. Harvey. She felt no guilt for what she saw as 
simply a premature exercising of the death penalty. Surely such a 
penalty was better to give before innocent lives were lost, rather 
than after. She did all she could to comfort and console Eric's 
grieving parents, sincerely sympathizing with them in their 
mourning. However, she also knew that any grief they felt was 
minute compared to the emotional agony that would have come 
to fruition had Eric lived. 

Five years later, a young man by the name of David walked 
through the doorway of Mrs. Harvey's room. To a normal set of 
eyes, David was just a sloppy, smart mouthed kid who only 
needed a little more maturity to develop into a responsible adult. 

46 Microcosm 2005 



Mrs. Harvey, however, knew otherwise. David's accident took 
place on his motorcycle. The crash was brutal, and the funeral 
had to be a closed casket ceremony, but this was all a necessary 
evil in the mind of an aging high school teacher. These incidents 
seemed like they had happened a lifetime ago, and Mrs. Harvey 
was hoping that her upcoming retirement would win the race 
against another killer, but Nathan still sat in his desk. 

She watched him closely but carefully over the next few 
days. She wanted to make absolutely certain that there was no 
mistake, but she knew deep inside that she could never make 
such an error. Nevertheless, her observation continued. Although 
irritatingly cocky, Nathan was not an outright troublemaker by 
any means. He didn't seem to have any very close friends, but he 
got along well with everyone and was fairly popular. Mrs. Harvey 
paid no attention to these signs, though. She only watched his 
eyes, and his eyes never changed. Finally, she decided that 
something had to be done soon. 

At her advance age, things were not going to be as easy as 
they had been in the past. First, she would need to review 
Nathan's schedule of classes and extracurricular activities. His 
guidance counselor, Mr. Warner, would have all of this informa- 
tion. Then, she could devise a plan to eliminate Nathan without 
suspicion. Anxiety and fear flooded Mrs. Harvey's mind, but she 
knew that she must continue with her righteous duty. 

Mrs. Harvey entered Mr. Warner's office confidently. Be- 
cause she had a reputation for taking personal interest in her 
students, she knew there would be nothing unusual in her 
request for a bit of information. To hide her intentions, she would 
also ask about a few other students and make long, meaningless 
conversation with the counselor. There would be no suspicion. 

Mr. Warner was a middle-aged man with a warm, pleasant 
face who was also new this year. Mrs. Harvey had spoken with 
him on several occasions and eaten lunch with him a couple of 
times. He seemed nice, caring, and genuinely interested in the 
students. She explained what she was after. He listened to her 
intently and with much interest. Mr. Warner informed her that 
he would have the information ready later that afternoon and 
would drop it by her classroom when school let out. "It's so nice 
when people really care about the students," thought Mrs. 

Microcosm 2005 47 



Harvey as she walked out the counselor's office. 

The clock in Mrs. Harvey's classroom read 3:23 when Mr. 
Warner knocked on the door. Mrs. Harvey hastily tidied up the 
papers that covered her desk before asking him to come in. He 
entered quickly and closed the door behind him. As he ap- 
proached her desk, Mrs. Harvey stood up with her arms crossed, 
impatient to get this first stepout of the way. Mr. Warner studied 
her carefully for a few moments, then raised his arms. "I can 
always tell," Mr. Warner thought to himself as his hand closed 
around Ms. Harvey's neck, I can spot one in an instant." 




Illustrator: David Russell 



48 



Microcosm 2005 



Returning Like a Dog 

DAYNE SHERMAN, FEATURE AUTHOR 
PONCHATOULA, LOUISIANA 

Talbert Mullins hobbled over to the creosote dock and 
looked into the water. The water was black as wet tar, stagnant, 
full of loam soil, and burdened with the smell of rotten leaves. 
Nothing moved but his reflection. Talbert could see himself in the 
water, a crippled old man with white hair spilling out of his red 
baseball cap, the hickory walking cane at his side like a short 
spear. 

The Friday morning appointment with the cardiologist had 
not gone well. The blockages in his carotid arteries were tight as a 
clenched fist, and his blood pressure was through the ceiling 
despite the pills. Talbert was a time bomb. And he knew it. He 
thought about the story he had heard when he got back to the 
campground, how a burly man with a heavy New Orleans accent 
stood on the dock and hit his own wife with an open hand. Just 
thinking about it made his chest sting with pain. 

From what he had gathered, the couple got into a nasty 
argument while fishing the Tangilena River. The husband, appar- 
ently drinking beer all morning, frightened his wife by driving 
the boat full throttle, reckless enough to straighten out a bend in 
the river. The boat got stuck in the mud, wedged between jagged 
cypress knees. The woman and her boy had gumbo mud matted 
up to their thighs, caused from dislodging the bow from the 
snaky bank. The man was clean, or so the impotent onlookers at 
the campground relayed to Talbert. 

At the launch, the man had cursed her and the Lord. She 
was not backing down at first. But when the blow to the face 
shook her courage, she fled. He ran after her to the restroom 
behind the bait shop. She hid, locked behind a hollow door, safe 
until he kicked it to splinters at the jams. He then dragged her 
back out to the launch by the hair of the head, out to his green 
Dodge pickup, out where her skinny eight-year-old son sat 
huddled in the cab. Then he paid Talbert' s helper for the door. 

Standing on the dock, the old man moved the busted door 

Microcosm 2005 49 



through his mind again. He felt the scratchy smoothness of the 
hundred-dollar bill in his pocket. This money cant wipe away what 
he done, Talbert thought. A blood offense warrants blood. 

Days went by, another Friday and Saturday, and the man 
did not reappear, nor did his family. There had been no sight of 
the truck, trailer, and boat for two weeks. Talbert could see the 
shape of the man's face, his shadowy features with chin hair, the 
thick brown goatee. 

The family fished the river a few times before, never catch- 
ing much. They never said much either. But the next morning, 
Sunday, the man and his wife and stepson pulled into the gravel 
lane that led to the boat launch. A stream of dust trailed the rig in 
ghost-like rooster tails. Talbert knew the rig, and he could not 
help but recall his father saying a dog always returns to his vomit. 

The pickup made the circle, backing a sleek bass boat with 
its black 150 horsepower Mercury outboard into the concrete slip, 
the downgrade ten feet to the February-cold water. Scuffed and 
marred places were visible on the fiberglass hull where the boat 
had scraped cypress knees. 

Talbert was a little worried himself, sixty-five years old, weak 
enough in the knees to lean more and more of his weight on the 
walking cane with each passing day. He still had his arms and 
chest, the upper part of his torso meaty, an ample fit for his tall 
man's height, but his legs were atrophying from a car wreck the 
year before. The cane never left his side. Likewise, he kept a 
holstered stainless steel magnum clipped to his belt. For almost a 
decade he'd run the place without unholstering the weapon, but 
he now questioned how long the peace would last. 

He eased up to the Dodge quietly. The sound of gravel 
crunched under the tires. An electric motor buzz issued from his 
red golf cart. "Hey podner," Talbert pointed to the duct tape- 
covered seat next to him, "come take a ride in my buggy with 
me." He felt a throbbing twinge of pain in his left arm. "I got to 
show you a little something." 

The man cut a glance at his squatty woman who was trying 
to light a cigarette cupped in her hands, but the wind was blow- 
ing too hard to make it easy. He sat on the seat beside Talbert. 
They motored off. Neither man talked. The passenger was 

50 Microcosm 2005 



flushed red in his cheeks, and it became clear by the silence that 
he realized he was being called down for the foolishness two 
weeks ago. 

The men rode out behind the camping area where eight 
trailers were set in a row a few yards apart, beat-up camps left 
year-round by fishermen or winter deer and duck hunters. Mull's 
Launch and Stay was not a real campground, just something to 
keep Talbert busy in retirement. He'd put in thirty-one years at a 
plant on the Mississippi River, and this was the end, a good place 
to retreat, the only tool lately to keep his mind off his wife. The 
wreck claimed her; she died beside Talbert in the passenger seat 
of their car. 

Out back, down a grassed-over logging road, just beyond a 
garden spot where he used to grow vegetables, was his dump. 
Behind it stood a pile of dirt six feet high and ten feet long, the 
place where he target practiced his revolver, the mound of earth 
left over from the garbage hole, soil he would one day hire a 
dozer to spread across the pit. The hole made him think about his 
neighbor Mondo Carter's dead coon hunting mule they burned 
with diesel fuel and car tires a month back, and how the maggots 
made a pop-sizzling noise when they burst beneath the flame. 
The skull and sharp ribs and shod feet stuck in his head like a 
vision of hell, the vision he saw during the eulogy at his wife's 
funeral service, the hard-shell gospel preacher calling down fire 
and brimstone. The smell of death was thick in his nose. 

Talbert shut down on the brakes and stopped the cart with a 
skid of bald tires in the grass. He sent an elbow to the man's left 
temple, jarring his passenger nearly unconscious with the blow. 
Talbert was around the cart and at the passenger's side. "Hit me 
you sorry sack of shit. Go on and make me hurt you." Then he 
cracked the man across the neck with his cane, a stroke that even 
surprised Talbert himself. He had not moved this fast in years. He 
grabbed for the gun at his side but stopped at mid-reach. 

The man was caught off guard. He looked wild-eyed, 
shocked. "I got no trouble with you." 

"You already got trouble. Taste the trouble I can give you," 
Talbert screamed, trying to keep his balance about three feet from 
the cart. "You want to slap somebody at my launch, slap a damn 
man. Come slap me." He pointed to his barrel chest above his 

Microcosm 2005 51 



bird-weak legs. 

The wife-beater clutched his temple. "I was drunk out there. 
I ain't meant nothing of it. I paid for the door. What more do you 
want?" He turned his head toward the old man. 

The excuse and the broken-down look enraged Talbert. He 
expected a fight. "You ever once come back to my launch and 
drink or holler at your wife, I'll pistol-whip you. I ever hear of 
you hitting that wife or boy, hear of you cussing either one of 
them, I'll hunt you down. YouTl have to go to work and tell how 
a crippled man whipped your ass in a fight." 

Tm sorry, Mister Mullins." 

The sound of an apology, coupled with his name, surprised 
Talbert more than the tears on the man's cheeks. 

"Swear it ain't never gonna happen again. By God, swear it." 

"I swear," the man said, his head hung and eyes pointed 
toward his boots. 

"Leave her today if you can't do no better," Talbert said. 
"That boy was watching out there, people say. YouTl create a 
rotten meanness in him the jails can't hold down." 

Talbert stopped the cart back at the truck a few minutes 
later. The man got out and walked over to his bewildered wife 
and hugged her where she stood with her arms crossed stiff at 
her chest. 

The old man thought how he still had a fire inside, but it 
was leaving him, and the day would come soon when he could 
not handle the hard-headed creatures around his place, that he 
would do good to die in his sleep of a heart attack, and not go 
down slow in a nursing home bed. He wondered what kind of 
cruel world he'd wake up to in the morning, and whether these 
vicious times would last/ 



* This story appeared in the November 2002 issue of The Dead Mule, an online 
magazine (www.deadmule.com). 

52 Microcosm 2005 



The Diary of Eve 



KAY GARRETT 
FLORENCE, MISSISSIPPI 

If you can imagine a green morning with the softest whisper 
of mist covering silver moss, then imagine that as the morning of 
my birth. For sounds, think of birds, of course. Of melodies, 
major and minor, sung to the exotic perfection of an African choir 
with long silences interspersed. And, under it all, the rush of 
water over stones. 

But you can never imagine the fragrance of that day. Don't 
even try. I can only ask you to remember being a child lying in 
the honey-fever grass. If you forced open an unborn blade of 
green, then lay back and dreamed of a thousand roses not yet 
bloomed-just the dream of them, not the too potent reality, you 
might get an idea of it. Or perhaps you have a memory of a 
particular rose. It might be white. Perhaps it came from your 
mother's rosebush. Perhaps you pretended it was a princess and 
dressed it in muslin leaves, and when it died you buried it, and 
that night you remembered the smell all mixed in with honey- 
suckle and wisteria and the scent of the night. We had hundreds 
of synonyms for the word smell, just as the Eskimos do for snow. 

When it rained, the mist would coalesce into brilliant dia- 
mond droplets for a few moments. Then the sun would come 
again and change the earth from silver to gold. The sweet day 
would ripen into a bouquet of fragrant moments and drop into 
evening with a whisper of falling petals. For I was born into the 
morning of this world. 

I lived beneath the hill in a veil of trees hanging across a 
waterfall. Every morning the water fell in a prism of broken light 
of a thousand shades to the rushing river. And in the evening, the 
waterfall would turn from all colors to dark azure, from light to 
darkness flowing into the velvet night. Till at last, in the deep of 
the night, there were only occasional sparks as the brilliant fish 
rose, invisible in the darkness but for one shining eye, gliding like 
a star across the night waterfall before falling again toward the 
river and the mad rush to the amethyst sea. 

Microcosm 2005 53 



And I was the mother of it all. I made it all just as I made 
myself and what came after. If there was a creator, a god if you 
will, then I was all bound up in the creator and the creation. All of 
us-animals, stones, plants, and those of you yet unborn-drove the 
creation and the creator. And the bright stars whirled around us. 

I was beneath the waterfall when first I saw him. He was a 
creature like me but different. He was tall and strong with merry 
eyes. He seemed to be looking for something. He seemed to be 
looking for me. 

"Hallooo," 1 called. And he answered at once. He came 
tumbling down the bank in a comic manner, losing his footing 
and sliding like an otter but never letting on that it was an un- 
usual mode of locomotion. 

He wasn't at all what I'd imagined, dreaming in the twilight 
of the day. I'd dreamed up many companions, but he was be- 
yond my wildest dreams. We struck up an acquaintance though, 
and soon we were fast friends. Always together, we rushed 
through the meadows chasing the nine-winged butterflies or 
teasing the cousin monkeys with their funny halting speech and 
their sad philosophies. 

There was no one to scold us. In short, it was Paradise. But 
something was missing-at least for me. For one thing, we weren't 
free to roam the Earth as we chose. There was, in fact, a huge 
wall of thick, twisted vine surrounding us on all sides. I discov- 
ered it quite by accident when we were playing a rather silly 
game of Spy-Not Spy with a wild doe. I came back alone and 
charted the wall's course for quite a long way. I grew certain that 
it went on forever, encompassing us all in a jade green prison 
from which there was no escape. 

"What can be on the other side?" I asked Adam (for so my 
companion had christened himself). 

"There's nothing on the other side," he replied. 

"There can't be nothing* How can nothing be anywhere?" 

"It's much easier for there to be nothing on the outside than 
it is for there to be something in here," he told me with a dark 
look. He had a point there, but I thought of the lights revolving 
around us each night in the diamond sky and kept silent. During 
that time, the universe was still flaming. Meteors and comets 

54 Microcosm 2005 



whizzed and sang in the night like the warfare of distant wizards. 

I found the tree in much the same way as I'd discovered the 
wall. By accident. Adam and I were chasing each other over hills 
and meadows, up trees and down, across the broad savannah. 
We came to a flat place filled with trees, like an orchard. But a 
space was cleared and, in the center, stood one shimmering tree. 
We stared at it for a while, and then we went home. After that, 
we came often to the orchard because fruit was plentiful, and we 
found new kinds there. 

"Let's get some fruit from the tree in the center," I said one 
day. I was surprised to find Adam quite reluctant. 

"I don't think we're supposed to mess around with that 
tree/' he said. 

"Why ever not?" 

"I'm not sure." He scratched his foot and looked at the 
branches through narrowed lids. "Tradition," he said at last. 

"What's tradition?" I asked. Adam was good at making up 
high flung words at short notice. 

"Tradition is what's always been done or not been done, and 
no one's gotten killed from doing or not doing it," he said with a 
firmness that, I thought, belied a certain insecurity. 

"The fruit looks delicious though," I said, hoping to appeal 
to his heart. 

"I think it's bitter," Adam said. "Besides, I don't care for that 
serpent fellow that hangs around up in the branches like some 
sort of guard." Oh, now we were getting to it. 

"Why not?" I said. "He seems nice enough." 

"You know why." 

I did, and immediately regretted the question. Serpents 
reminded Adam of some dim dream of dragons that he insisted 
had its basis in fact. It wasn't that I disagreed or minded the 
tiresome recitation of this nightmare. I, in fact, had my own pale 
memories of the shadows of dragons. It's just that I was irked by 
the continual prefacing of the discussion by Adam's seemingly 
unfounded claim that he was the elder. It always led to the same 
argument. 

Microcosm 2005 55 



"I think we're the same age/ 7 I'd say. 

Then maddeningly: "You can't be, you know, because you 
came from me." 

"How do you figure that?" 

"Well, you had to come from somewhere." 

"Granted," I agreed, gritting my teeth. 

"So you came from my side one day when I was sleeping. I 
woke up and there you were!" 

"That's ridiculous, Adam." 

"Then how do you account for the fact that I have one less 
rib than you?" he'd always ask in triumph. 

"You don't. We have the same!" 

Then would begin a laborious counting over and over of our 
ribs which would always end in the same way because Adam had 
the type personality that could admit no wrong on even the most 
trivial issues and in the face of overwhelming evidence to the 
contrary. You know what I mean. 

I began to sink into a mild despair, roaming the deep, green 
forest alone and traversing the path of the living wall, making a 
trail against its thick foundation. It was taller than I could reach. 
Several times, I attempted to climb the slick sides. I slid down 
before gaining even a few feet, but not before being gored by the 
heavy briars that fell from the top in lethal tendrils. 

Over and over, I began to question the life of games and 
eating and sleeping in the sun. Hidden somewhere in my brain 
was a question I couldn't yet formulate. Like a half-remembered 
lyric, it tickled my mind, but I had no music to which to set the 
words. One day I came alone to the center of the wood and 
found the lazy serpent coiled around one of the lower branches 
of the golden tree. "Would you like some fruit?" he offered. At 
the same time, he hospitably uncoiled himself. 

"I don't think it's yours to offer, is it?" I spoke with care and 
backed away, still thinking of dragons. 

He straightened up, alert at that. "No," he said. "I believe it's 
yours. I'm looking after it for you." 

"Hmmm," I said, stalling. "Then why shouldn't I eat it?" I 

56 Microcosm 2005 



was thinking out loud, not asking him in particular. 

The serpent made a disgruntled sound. "Whoever said you 
couldn't?" 

"Adam. He said we oughtn't. Shouldn't." 

"Two different things." 

"What?" I said. 

"Oughtn't and shouldn't." 

"I don't see why." 

"'Should not ' implies a higher authority. 'Ought not' implies a 
moral imperative," he explained in a tone that belied an infinite 
patience sorely strained. 

"Well, what will happen if I eat it?" I was gazing at the fruit. 
It had gone a lovely burnt orange, reminding me of a sunset. 

"That," said the serpent, "is an excellent question." 

"And the answer?" The serpent said nothing, but darted his 
tongue out as though testing the sweet green breeze that played 
continually through the branches of the orchard. 

"What will happen if I don't eat it?" I asked, trying a new 
tact. 

"Nothing," said the serpent. 

I stamped in frustration. I felt that if only I knew the right 
question, the creature was capable of giving me an important 
answer. "What kind of fruit is it, anyway?" 

"Ah," the serpent sighed. "That might help you decide." 

"Well?" 

"Well-what?" He really was a most vexing creature. 

"Well- what kind of fruit?" I spoke more loudly than before. 
I was close to tears. 

"It's the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil," he said. 

I thought about this for a moment. I might be on to some- 
thing here. "Does that mean the fruit gives one knowledge that is 
both good and evil or that one gains the knowledge to tell the 
difference between good and evil?" I asked. 

"That's another very good question," he remarked. 

Microcosm 2005 57 



"And what's the answer?" 

"Both." 

"Both?" 

"Yes." 

"The answer is 'both'?" 

"That's right." 

"Oh." I waited another long while, but the serpent only 
regarded me with an enigmatic smile. 

"Does the wall have a door?" I asked him finally. 

"Yes." 

"Where is it?" I asked, expecting anything but a straight 
answer. And wouldn't I have found the door myself after days of 
investigation? 

"Here," said the serpent waving his tail toward the left. 

I peered in the direction indicated. I could just see the wall 
some thirty feet away at its nearest point. It was covered by thick 
ropes of ivy, and I could make out no door. But it seemed to me 
that through the deep foliage I could make out a faint light 
different from the warm golden glow of the garden. It was the 
cold white-silver light of mystery. 

I turned and ran from the orchard. A warm mist had risen 
about me so that each step I took was concealed-as though I 
might be stepping off into a great sea. 

That night, Adam and I lay hidden in the warm moss of my 
remembering. We were playing at naming the animals and would 
whoop with delight as one or the other of us would come up 
with some ridiculous appellation for an equally ridiculous crea- 
ture. But I was troubled. I disliked keeping things from Adam. 
"The serpent says the tree in the middle of the orchard grows the 
fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." 

"The serpent says." 

"Well, it could be true." 

"And what if it is?" 

"Aren't you curious?" 

"No," he said. "I told you. We aren't supposed to eat that 

58 Microcosm 2005 



fruit. Why do you want to? And why do you insist on talking to 
that slimy fellow?" He looked at me, his deep eyes veiled by dark 
lashes, his brooding forehead gloomy. 

"Nothing ever really happens here. I mean, don't you get 
tired of having everything just laid out for you?" Adam stared, 
incredulous. 

"I guess I'm bored," I said. 

"You're bored," Adam said in disgust. 

"Yes!" I felt a growing defiance. "And I want to see what's 
on the other side of the wall!" Adam didn't answer. He rose and 
moved away through the perfect gathered darkness. 

That night I captured a glowing nightbird and carried it 
with me as I charted the circumference of the wall. Afterward, I 
sat and thought for a long while, making drawings in the dirt 
with a sharp stick. From what I could tell, the wall was roughly 
circular and only a few hundred miles around. 

The next morning when I returned to the tree, the serpent 
was waiting for me. "I knew you'd come," he said, smugly 
twitching his coppery body until he looked like a length of 
shimmering sunlight caught in the opalescent dawn. 

"You did?" 

"Certainly. Isn't conversation with me preferable to talking 
with that ape?" 

"You mean Adam?" No reply. "He's not an ape." The ser- 
pent only shrugged, if you can imagine an animal without shoul- 
ders shrugging. 

"What will happen if I eat the fruit?" I didn't expect an 
answer. I'd tried to come up with a better question all night. But, 
again, the serpent surprised me. He pointed downward where, 
covered by luxurious foliage, a pool lay hidden at the foot of the 
tree. I watched as the water became clearer and clearer until I 
could see the pebble-speckled bottom. Then I could see beyond 
the bottom into somewhere else. 

I saw huge silvery birds drift through an alien sky. I saw 
man fall at war and woman weep. I watched long lines of people 
pass into smoke at the wave of a dark man's hand. I saw a hill 
with three leafless trees. I saw an old woman giving bread to 

Microcosm 2005 59 



scores of swollen-bellied babies. I saw a man scratching on a 
white leaf as his images came to life like shadows on the wall 
behind him. Men and women made images of the world with bits 
of colored clay. I saw a monstrous cloud rise from the earth till 
drops of black rain fell from it onto white stone that covered the 
ground like ice. I saw men walking across the face of the moon. 

Finally, I shook my head and there again was the green pool 
that nourished the roots of the tree with only my own image 
reflected in the water. I leaped to a branch and confronted the 
serpent eye to eye, so to speak. "If I eat it, what's the worst thing 
that will happen?" 

"You'll forget who you are," the creature replied with 
uncharacteristic promptness. "You'll begin to wear masks. You'll 
separate from everything else. You'll make up a story and forget 
you're the author. You'll think it's someone else's story." 

"And what's the best thing?" 

"You'll die. And death will bring art and science into being. 
Without death, life is a meaningless game. With death, it's still a 
game, but no longer meaningless." 

"Will I have to leave the garden?" I asked. 

"That's what you want, isn't it?" said the sly snake. 

"But can I ever return?" 

"You can try but, once you succeed you'll be back outside 
the story. Trying to get back will create love. That's the only way 
back to the garden. Love will bring altruism, worship, and sex-all 
things that can be used for good or evil, by the way, but I don't 
think you'll want to do without them." 

"So, this good and evil ..." I began. 

Look," he said pointing to the ground where the sun was 
painting patterns of leaf shadows. "There's no shadow without 
the light, and you wouldn't know what light was without the 
shadow." 

"But in the end," I insisted, "In the end, I'll come back?" 

"It doesn't really matter. You're always here, really, aren't 
you?" said the serpent with his enigmatic smile. 

I pulled the fruit from the tree. It was firm and glowing. I 

60 Microcosm 2005 



thought of all the knowledge I longed for. And I thought of 
forgetting who I was, and I wondered who I would think I was 
and if that person would be interesting and what the story would 
be and how it would turn out. I took a bite, and the fruit was 
richer and sweeter than any I'd had. It was like biting into sun- 
shine. I finished it off and reached for another. 

"One more thing," said the serpent. "It makes your head 
bigger." 

"It what?" I called after it, perplexed. 

The maddening creature was wriggling through the 
branches faster than you might think one without feet could 
move, but he turned and touched the tip of his tail to my fore- 
head. "An unfortunate side effect for you," he said. "Distressing 
childbirth," he murmured as he slid out of sight. 

I soon realized the reason for his haste. Adam was approach- 
ing the tree looking dazed. He'd never been so close before, and 
he appeared awed by the fruit now glimmering like jewels in the 
full morning sun. Without speaking, I tossed him a piece. As if in 
a trance, he bit down. 

I dropped from the tree and crossed the short space to the 
wall at a run, Adam following close behind me. Behind the 
foliage, a wooden gate stood closed, but unfastened. A sudden 
wind through the garden ruffled the thick fur on the slim, grace- 
ful arm with which I pushed open the gate. I stepped out into a 
silver singing. 



Microcosm 2005 61 



The Snake 

KAREN WILLIAMS 
HAMMOND, LOUISIANA 

The preacher drove slowly in the beginnings of sunlight. He 
liked to visit people when they were still fresh-before they had a 
chance to tire and complain about the day's troubles. All of his 
people got up early. Most of them didn't farm for a living any- 
more, but they still had their land and their farm consciences that 
warned them of morning's arrival. 

He was a little worried about Sarah. He had word that she 
had had a spell since last Sunday when he brought her to church. 
Today was Friday. He wondered if she had been coughing much. 

It was a pretty day. Spring was just coming in, and Sarah's 
fields were beginning to green. The preacher drove into Sarah's 
drive and smelled the last of the plum blossoms. 

He saw a flutter of movement in the sparkling glass pane of 
the front door and slowly got out of his car, smoothing his tan 
gaberdine pants and patting down a tiny patch above his right 
knee before gently easing the door shut. 

It was Rosa who came out to greet him, quietly rustling in 
her blue flowered skirt and billowy green blouse that swallowed 
her thinness. She had come over early to help Sarah clean the 
house. The white, three-porched house was always clean inside 
and out, but every spring it was scrubbed and scoured as if it had 
gathered a year's worth of cobwebs. Sarah was sleeping late this 
morning, so Rosa had just come in and begun to work. Her house 
was only a quarter of a mile away, and she had her own key. She 
was a strong, solemn woman whose job was to see that Sarah's 
life was in order. Gracious and stern, she offered a smooth hand 
to the preacher. 

It wasn't the cough that jarred her; it was the sudden flash 
of morning crashing in through her half-open window. She 
struggled against it violently. She was afraid to wake-afraid to 
leave the nightmare. She had been dreaming of snakes. 

Her body did not look frail as she lay quietly in the green 

62 Microcosm 2005 



sheets. She looked better at seventy than she had ever looked in 
her life. She was a tall, big-boned woman with gray whiskers that 
she shaved every third day. But she was still womanly-full- 
breasted-a mother figure to the community. She enjoyed em- 
bodying all the characteristics of the perfect homemaker: making 
the best blue ribbon jelly, the most intricate crosspatch quilts, the 
crispest pickles. Every year she collected her ribbons from the 
parish fair. She expected to win, and she always did. 

But there was no joy in living-just a perversity toward 
dying. She could live with destruction, but she could not endure 
the possibility of remaining intact after death. She was afraid her 
soul was eternal. Five years ago she had decided that when it was 
her time to die, she would have the preacher in. If the last person 
she saw was the preacher, perhaps she could wipe everything 
away. 

Dreamless now, her unconscious wrestled with the snake 
that goaded her. The snake twisted and writhed against the 
coming light, knowing that its time was almost past. Against the 
writhings, Sarah could hear the garbled swallowings of idle 
conversation, and she sensed the familiar shades of Rosa and the 
preacher. She could see them plainly-the good and evil together 
making morning coffee pleasantries, and she hated them both. 
The preacher was a good man-a kindhearted, loving man who 
found God at work in every situation. If a needed rain occurred, 
it was God's will; when Jim Fletcher's twelve-year-old daughter's 
body was found battered by Moss Creek, the preacher affirmed 
God's sacred mystery. To Sarah, the preacher was a holy instru- 
ment sent to reassure her that all her thoughts and actions were 
part of the divine plan. She always made sure to get a ride to 
church with him every Sunday. Now Sarah saw him smiling to 
the impassive Rosa, and her bowels turned inside her with 
contempt. 

She pictured Rosa sitting silent and complacent with the 
preacher, an evilness exuding from her body-from her black 
richness and her superior strengths. She was even able to mask 
her actions in deeds of kindness and concern. There was a totality 
of purpose in her skillful, busy hands that convinced Sarah that 
Rosa's neighborly deeds held a seething malice. 

She tried to remember when the snake had first appeared. 

Microcosm 2005 63 



She knew that the snake had laughed when she lost her boy child 
to the crib death. Maybe it was the snake that had bitten him. But 
before that, she might have found the snake in the boy she met 
just before she married, the pretty boy with his knowing eyes and 
winsome smile who had ruined any happiness she might have 
had with Matt. She had had a long and bitter marriage of thirty- 
five years, though she had cried bitterly at Matt's passing fifteen 
years ago. She hated being left alone although she disliked com- 
pany. 

Maybe that was why she always kept up with her relatives. 
She was her church's official angel of mercy. She always sat with 
the sick, bringing them her famous casseroles and bible verses. 
She was generally the first to arrive at the time of tragedy. She 
did so much good for people that they felt ashamed to cringe 
when they saw her carefully pleasant face appear at their door. 

She and the snake went back a long way. She had recog- 
nized him only ten or twelve years ago, but somehow she wasn't 
surprised by his presence. She could blame all her bodily ills, her 
acute sensitivities, her exquisite loathings, on the snake. 

She still tried to go back and ascertain-now that she knew 
he was inside her-when he had first appeared. She had felt the 
snake's convulsive glee at age sixteen when she had lost her 
favorite brother, and she had felt him writhe with loathsome 
pleasure when she had blamed her younger brother King for her 
favorite's death. Tom had been crushed to death when the tree 
he was felling crashed in the direction opposite to his expecta- 
tions, while King, who rushed in to help, had only lost a leg. She 
had resented King's living almost in place of Tom, and she had 
held him responsible. She had had to look after him ever since 
the accident. Every week she made a dish of food and sent some 
poor relative the half-mile through the woods to King's shack to 
see if he needed anything. He should feel obliged to her; his 
ingratitude rankled like a worm in the heart of Sarah's charity. 

She remembered that she had seen the snake once. She had 
to reach back for the memory-past years of bitterness, meanness, 
and dissatisfaction-but when she finally found it, it was fresh and 
pure, the most vivid occurrence in her life. It had been a rattle- 
snake. She had found it in the hay barn when she was five years 
old and unaware of the effect of rattlesnakes on little girls, but 

64 Microcosm 2005 



she had stood her ground. She had stared at the snake as 
unblinkingly as he had stared at her. It was beautifully pat- 
terned-a coil of cold loathing that she had never before encoun- 
tered. She had tucked the memory away, but the impact of the 
experience crystallized into some secret compartment of her fear. 

She had no children, no friends, but she had a fine old wood 
house and two hundred acres of pasture land and about twenty 
acres of timber. Three years ago she sold $80,000 worth of timber, 
but the money didn't change anything. She didn't buy a car 
because she didn't know how to drive and didn't have anyone to 
drive her. There was nowhere to go anyway. There wasn't any- 
thing to see in Middletree, the little village three miles away, so 
she didn't spend her money in town. Her money didn't change 
her taste. She still puzzled through Shakespeare and raced 
through Good Housekeeping novelettes. She still sewed bright 
orange and green print dresses and wore her stockings pulled 
right up over her knees so that you could see the rolled up tops 
when she sat down. The only thing the money did was to make 
her suspect that everyone was trying to get it from her. It caused 
her worry without end: she kept only forty dollars at home and 
called the bank once a week to be sure her money was safe. 

The only thing she believed in was the snake. She took great 
stock in church, but she found no comfort in it. She held no 
illusions about an airy angelic heaven for herself. The snake 
would not permit it. Yet she had no confidence in the power of 
evil either. It was too common and too akin to the good. The best 
she could find was a gray area of noncommittal malice-no true 
blackening and dooming chaos she could relinquish herself to. 
There was only Rosa to show evil to Sarah in covert and inexpli- 
cable intimations as she cleaned and nursed and ran errands for 
her. 

Confused patterns of Rosa and the preacher continued to 
beat against some inner mirror of Sarah's mind. They seemed to 
leap at her through her bedroom walls. The humming and 
garbling got louder, mounting to a fine buzz in her eardrums as 
the light continued to vibrate within her head. She was terrified 
at the thought of waking, but sleep would not keep her. 

The snake was angry-squirming in her chest, down to her 
bowels, and up through her throat. She never doubted the 

Microcosm 2005 65 



snake's vision. She had heard the preacher preach about the 
lying, smiling two-headed snake that enticed Eve into eternal 
seduction of man, but she blamed it all on Eve and her desire to 
lower man to her state. She had more control over herself than 
Eve. She was strong, intelligent, and forceful. 

The snake was all that kept her alive now. He had allowed 
her to see through any careful pretensions. She could categorize 
people almost instantly. And she could see the ones she knew in 
perfect abstractions. Rosa was the ultimate evil. Strong, helpful, 
and silent-she had a power even greater than that of the snake to 
keep Sarah in line. And the preacher was important too. Weak in 
himself, he was nevertheless the implement Sarah would use to 
plead for her soul in front of God. She needed no one to plead for 
her on account of the Evil One, so she avoided Rosa. He was 
eager enough for her now. Only the snake kept her whole and 
independent. 

She could hardly stand the snake's last convulsions. The 
light was lashing inside her too. She knew who would win. Light 
overcame everything. A silent scream pierced through her body 
as the snake fled the day. She opened her eyes. An instant was all 
that was allotted. The buzzing stopped. She glared through the 
window at a red bird in the oak leaves that were still the color of 
a light green lizard, and her eyes were so clear that she could see 
a green lizard on a twenty-foot high branch. Above the tree top, 
she saw a crow's feather fall through the sky and watched its 
swirling journey until its impact with the ground. A green tree 
frog jumped out of the way as the feather hit, and Sarah watched 
him run to safer blades of grass close to the preacher's car. Then 
with horror she saw the back of the preacher-a strong, stalwart 
back walking away from her. Speechless, she turned her gaze to 
her room and to the darkness of rotting cedar walls. Her mir- 
rored image looked back blankly in the oak dresser and froze as 
she heard the doorknob turn. 

A doorknob turns in a second, but the second is still divisible 
by an infinite multiplicity of parts; and Sarah could feel the turn 
of each fragment. Sarah had never known such terror before-its 
harrowing, throat-drying clasp. She had waited for the moment 
with anticipation and had relished the thought of it, but she had 
wanted the preacher on hand to help her transcend it. 

66 Microcosm 2005 



Now she would be left only to Rosa's cool, soft hands and 
knowing eyes, gleaming with an evil awareness, although they 
offered to Sarah only her own reflection. 

The doorknob finished turning, and the silent Rosa entered 
slowly, fearing that she was too late, going straightway to the 
bed. Gently, she braced herself to soothe the tortured look of 

Sarah's final repose. Chanting softly and musically, she 
folded the clenched hands into suppliance and closed the dull 
eyes into darkness. But Sarah's terror remained, fixed in the now 
quiet face. Rosa wailed, filling the room with the passing horror. 



Microcosm 2005 67 




Illustrator: Kristen Butler 



68 



Microcosm 2005 



CD 



A Stereotypical 
White Male 

RANDALL KING 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 



The world seems to see white males as having 
the easiest route to success. I cannot agree. I have 
experienced speed bumps on my route that almost 
derail me. At a time when I am barely beginning 
to understand who I am on the inside, I must fight what some 
people see on the outside: white, male, and southern. 

Racism is probably one of the largest flaws of mankind. 
Getting labeled a racist is insulting and is a mark nearly impos- 
sible to remove. When I served in the army, I had a battle buddy 
from Cleveland, Ohio, who was black. A battle buddy was sup- 
posed to be a best friend and be with me every second, but 
having him around only made life harder for me. This best friend 
automatically labeled me as a member of the Ku Klux Klan be- 
cause I was white and from Mississippi. He believed that I hated 
anything not white. Once, while being issued our first uniforms, 
he asked me, "You're from Mississippi, right? Don't they issue 
you white hoods when you're born?" Nothing I could say or do 
would prove that he was wrong about me. In his eyes I was the 
bad guy. I was the one who burnt crosses, tattooed swastikas to 
my forehead, and worshipped Hitler. My reputation was ruined 
before I was even born. 

Being white and from Mississippi just adds to the antago- 
nism of being a male. Men are well known for their willingness to 
pursue an intimate physical relationship with women. That is a 
popular belief that I agree with, but what I do not agree with is 
the generalization of this belief. Not every man who smiles and 
says hello to a woman or holds a door open for her is a sleazy 
animal waiting for his chance to pounce. My best friends in life 
have all been women, except for one. My best friend right now is 
a female. To most people, a guy and a girl cannot be close with- 

Microcosm 2005 69 



out sleeping together; therefore, my life and reputation is con- 
stantly bombarded by problems from this one relationship. For 
once I would like to extend my friendship to the opposite sex and 
it not be taken as an offer for an "all-you-can-eat" sexual buffet at 
the Hampton Inn. 

Instead of stitches, the job market has put a bandage on the 
wound between the ethnic and gender groups. It is now labeled 
'Equal Opportunity'. It has not equaled anything out in my life. I 
was taking a job seminar as I was leaving the army. The lady 
giving the seminar had more than twenty years experience in 
hiring for corporations. She was hired by the army to tell us all 
the secrets and to help us get ahead. After the third day, and after 
my confidence had risen because of what I had learned, she gave 
us the truth about how today's companies hire. It is not by the 
most qualified but by gender, race, and disabilities. Companies 
have to hire so many different ethnic groups, women, and people 
with handicaps or disabilities. They actually have quotas on the 
color they need. Qualifications and experience became a far 
second compared to my skin and gender. Equal Opportunity is a 
great concept. Unequal Discrimination is a reality. 

The world does not know what equal is. We cannot see it. 
We have to label and divide everything in life — especially our- 
selves. If we could stop and try to understand maybe we could 
ease a lot of tension between people. I understand how it feels to 
be wrongly judged, and from now on, I will slow down and try 
to understand a person before labeling them. 



70 Microcosm 2005 



The Wasteland of Don 
Quixote 

CRAIG DONALD CASE 
COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 



When the name of Don Quixote comes to mind, one most 
often thinks of a complete madman, lost in his own delusions, 
jousting with windmills. The image of a dauntless dreamer is also 
brought to mind. Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote is generally- 
regarded as a work satirizing the ridiculous percepts of chivalry, 
but the eloquent statements about the way life should be lived 
made by the protagonist can hardly be taken as irrelevant insan- 
ity. Who is Don Quixote — a caricature of an outdated ideal or a 
rebel against a flawed reality? The answer is that Cervantes did 
not intend for Quixote's tale to ultimately be a satire of lofty 
ideals, but rather of a world without them. 

The opening of Don Quixote informs the reader that in the 
town of la Mancha, there lived an impoverished gentleman 
named Alonso Quijano. He was an old man, around fifty years of 
age, whose chief joys in life lay in reading books of chivalry — and 
the incessant reading thereof caused him to lose his mind. OR 
perhaps the stark contrast between his empty life and the glori- 
ous deeds of knights is what did his sanity in. Either way, the old 
man clad himself in rusted mail and surrounded himself with 
impenetrable illusions. For many years, he and his squire Sancho 
rode about. Involving themselves in all manner of misadventures. 
At many points in the story, Don Quixote launches into elaborate 
and flowery discourses on what the proper nature of mankind is, 
speaking on issues such as honor, valor, knighthood, love, faith, 
and poetry. An example of this is Quixote's soliloquy on the 
Golden Age and how the disappearance thereof necessitated the 
existence of knights-errant: "Happy the age and happy the 
centuries to which the ancients give the name of golden, and not 
because gold, which is so esteemed in their own age of ours, was 
then to be had without toil, but because those who lived in this 
time did not know the meaning of the words 'thine' and 

Microcosm 2005 71 



/ mine , ...All then was peace, all was concord and 
friendship... Fraud, deceit, and malice and had not yet come to 
mingle with truth and plain-speaking... Maidens in all their 
modesty, as I have said, went where they would and unattended, 
whereas in this hateful age of ours none is safe... It was for the 
safety of such as these, as time went on and depravity increased, 
that the order of knights-errant was instituted, for the protection 
of damsels, the aid of widows and orphans, and succoring of the 
needy " (Cervantes 1225-26). The undeniable beauty of his beliefs 
contrasts the insanity of his actions. 

While Don Quixote marches fearlessly through his illusion- 
ary existence of grandeur and greatness, the rest of the world 
proceeds with its usual doings. Whenever Don Quixote enters 
someone's life by chance, they express amazement and then go 
about doing whatever they can to abuse Quixote's condition for 
their own gain or amusement; one instance of this occurs when 
the chain-gang of prisoners, newly freed by Quixote, violently 
attack him(Cervantes 1263). Even his squire Sancho thinks mostly 
of food and the property Don Quixote told him squires inevitably 
inherit. As the Knight of the Mournful Countenance pursues his 
quest for nobility and honor, the reader is made to see that the 
real world he inhabits is very lacking in those qualities. 

Even the unnamed narrator of the story is harsh and vicious, 
attacking Quixote and mocking his madness at every step of the 
way; he calls Quixote's aforementioned elegant soliloquy on 
struggling for an ideal world a " futile harangue" that "might very 
well have been dispensed with" (Cervantes 1226). Almost every- 
one and everything is antagonistic or indifferent to Don Quixote 
and to the notion of chivalry, from the narrator, to the inhabit- 
ants of the inn where he was knighted (Cervantes 1193), to the 
farmer involved with his first deed of chivalry (Cervantes 1199), 
to the various travelers he crosses paths with (Cervantes 1236), 
and at last to the women of his own household (Cervantes 1325). 
If the whole course of the story is viewed in this light, it becomes 
apparent that the reader is meant to feel sympathetic towards 
Don Quixote — not merely laugh at his antics and overdramatic 
emotions. This is especially noticeable at the end, where Quixote 
"regains his sanity" and becomes bed-ridden after being defeated 
by Sanson Carrasco, a bachelor of la Mancha who pretended to 
also be a knight-errant in order to beat Quixote as his own game. 

72 Microcosm 2005 



There is no humor in the scene in which Alonso condemns 
chivalry and his entire life up to that point: "My mind is now 
clear, unencumbered by those misty shadows of ignorance that 
were cast over it by my bitter and continual reading of those 
hateful books of chivalry. I see through all the nonsense and 
fraud contained in them..." (Cervantes 1326). His friends and 
family, their grief assuaged by the inheritance Alonso is leaving, 
watch as he slowly dies, ashamed of his life. Sancho begs his 
hopeless master to resume the quest. There is no satire — simply 
sadness. Don Quixote ran all over Spain, survived altercations 
with thugs and lions, and walked just as tall as before; Bon 
Antonio, a minor character who appears toward the end of the 
story, remarked that the knight and his squire were "capable of 
turning melancholy itself into joy and merriments" (Cervantes 
1320). Don Quixote was proud, full of purpose, and invulnerable. 
Alonso Quijano is ashamed, knows nothing but despair, and can 
do nothing but die. 

Was it truly Cervantes' purpose to conceal genuine chivalric 
passion beneath cynicism and sarcasm? It seems unlikely, but 
during his youth Cervantes exhibited such valor that any knight 
of medieval legend would have been proud of him. He enlisted in 
the Spanish military and fought alongside the allied forces of 
Christendom against the Turks during the Battle of Lepanto in 
1571. In that particular battle, he distinguished himself by fight- 
ing despite sickness and receiving three gunshot wounds 
(Cervantes 1177). In his writing, Cervantes displays intimate 
familiarity with the intricacies of chivalric lore and verse 
(Cervantes 1178). Could such a man truly have set out to make a 
laughing stock of chivalry — or did he meant to present it in a 
whole new light? Subtlety of meaning is far from a new concept 
in romance, after all. The character Cervantes in Dale 
Wasserman' s musical The Man of la Mancha is presented as just 
such an author, due to the playwright's vision of Cervantes 
actually being the real-life Don Quixote (Wasserman); Wasserman 
needed only for the character to recount Cervantes' battlefield 
experiences with dying men who did not know why they lived to 
make clear the musical's message of hope through indefatigable 
idealism (A Tribute to Don Quixote). 

If their perspective is adopted, readers familiar with both 
Don Quixote and T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land may begin to see a 

Microcosm 2005 73 



correlation between the two. The Waste Land also uses mythic and 
romantic allusions to present a world suffering from moral and 
spiritual decay (Eliot 1202). In a sense, the Spain of Don Quixote 
can be seen as a precursor to The Waste Land. The magnificent 
figure of the man of la Mancha parades about, " frightening the 
world to the core" (Cervantes 1330), but always and ever "turning 
melancholy itself into joy and merriment. " The dissatisfied and 
bitter people surrounding him laugh and throw stones, but the 
result of a world without any chivalrous lunatics can be plainly 
seen, in The Waste Land. It is a culturally significant work of social 
and psychological deterioration — without any answers. A line 
especially relevant to the death of Quixote can be found in the 
last verse of Eliot 7 s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: "We have 
lingered in the chambers of the sea/By sea-girls wreathed with 
seaweed red and brown/Till human voices wake us, and we 
drown" (Eliot 1197). Quixote, previously immune to the social 
forces of conformity and internal isolation which bind and afflict 
Prufrock, becomes like the rest of us and dies only when the 
voice of reality crashes down on him. 

Don Quixote's quest to overcome the bleakness of life with 
illusion and dreams is an undeniably powerful and human one 
that crosses physical, literary, and spriritual borders. To draw a 
modern parallel, Christians fight to keep their beliefs relevant 
against the encroaching advance of science. In the views of some 
experts, love has been reduced to a chemical reaction and altru- 
ism to a herd instinct. If technology is our new savior, then why 
is depression the foremost and ever-growing psychological 
malady of contemporary western humanity (Major Depression 
Facts)? Perhaps the old madman had it right all along when he 
said, "Too much sanity may be madness" (A Tribute to Don 
Quixote). Don Quixote's dream may indeed be impossible — but is 
also immortal. 



Work Cited 

Cervantes, Miguel de. "Don Quixote." The Norton Anthology of World 
Masterpieces. Ed. Maynard Mack. 5 th ed. Norton & Company, New York: 1987. 

Eliot, T.S. "The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock." The Longman Anthology of 
British Literature. Ed. David Damrosch. 2 nd ed. Vol. B. Pearson Education, Inc. 
2004 

74 Microcosm 2005 



"Major Depression Facts." Depression Learning Path. Uncommon Knowl- 
edge Ltd, 2004., http://www.clinical-depression.co.uk/Depression_Information/ 
facts.htm 

"A Tribute to Don Quixote." Donutrun: Where Don Quixote Goes For 
Breakfast. August 2001. http://homepages.togethere.net/ ~ donutrun/quiz.htm 

Wasserman, Dale. "Press Room: Man of la Mancha." Willow's Theatre 
Company. January 2005. http://www.willowstheatre.org/Press%20Room/ 
Man%20of%20Lamancha/Manch Press 3.htm 




Photographer: Jacquelyn Berry 



Microcosm 2005 



75 



The Weaknesses of a 
Master 

REBECCA FORD 
BROOKHAVEN, MISSISSIPPI 

In each of us there are weaknesses. There are ones that rest 
on the surface that others are able to see and testify about and 
then underneath the mask of sanity and perfectness lays 
struggles and daily battles that must be kept from conquering 
what we know as ourselves. In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, the 
narrator and major character of the novel, Victor Frankenstein, 
reveals to the reader his apparent weaknesses and hints to the 
conflicts that lie within him. Although a weakness is determined 
by individual standards, Victor possessed strong weaknesses in 
him through his compulsiveness with his studies and creations, 
his inability to hold and respect relationships, and his calloused 
heart. 

As a man of extraordinary talent and knowledge, Victor was 
challenged with the necessary ability to hold himself back from 
diving in and being drowned by the world of science and its 
marvels. Since "in a scientific pursuit there is food for discovery 
and wonder/' (30) he found himself in the midst of a search for 
the unknown, and seemingly impossible to find, secret to life. 
Victor became indulged in the idea that he could recreate life 
using body parts from corpses and in some way spark life into 
this newly united body. Although a challenge like this seems 
admirable, Victor changed an exciting endeavor into hours of 
driving himself to create the dream creation he fixed his mind on 
making. As time went on, Victor became obsessed with his 
experiment and rarely, if ever, left his apartment. His compulsive- 
ness with his work, took him away from the world and society. In 
the novel he even admits to his listeners "stars often disappeared 
in the light of morning whilst [he] I was yet engaged in the 
laboratory" (29). Since he became so involved with his work, he 
became weak and eventually was struck with an almost fatal 
illness and an "anxiety that almost amounted to agony" (34). His 

76 Microcosm 2005 



inability to control himself and his " eagerness which perpetually 
increasecT (33) with his studies and creations was a weakness that 
Victor could not conquer and it led to distress and serious illness. 

A man who must live in this world must also bare the re- 
sponsibility to relate to those around them. Man cannot be 
successful and reach its dreams without being able to fall back on 
those around them. Victor lacked the ability to allow people to 
come within his sphere of comfort and to touch his life. Eliza- 
beth, the one woman who possessed the key to Victor's heart was 
forced to wait to unlock his love because he moved around and 
avoided making the commitment and opening the door to life to 
her. Yet, he " smiled with such kindness and affection that [he] I 
felt sensations of a peculiar and overpowering nature: they were 
a mixture of pain and pleasure, such as [he] I had never before 
experienced... and [he] withdrew... unable to bear these emo- 
tions" (75). Victor was able to do something that no other human 
had done before; he created another living being that would also 
have to live in this world and survive. Yet, because of Victor's 
lack of trust in people, he followed his own example and again 
ran away from developing a relationship that was much needed 
and would have kept much misery from ever arriving in his life 
and of those around him. He longed for an attachment with 
something but inevitably found out that "to be friendless is 
indeed to be unfortunate" (95). He also took advantage of the love 
his father had for him. No matter what the conflict or event was 
that sprang up in the life of Victor, his father was there to sup- 
port or rescue him. Henry Clavel, a childhood friend of Victor's 
helped to nurse him back to health after his treacherous illness 
almost stole his life. However, the reader does not see nor under- 
stand the depth of love and respect Victor has for his friend until 
he is killed and snatched from his life. His lack of effort in main- 
taining and respecting the giving of those around him becomes a 
weakness that leaves a constant void in Victor's life. 

A heart of humans has the ability to conquer, to lead, to love 
and to define one's life. Yet, that same heart's power is threat- 
ened with callousness and lack of attention. Once the heart is 
calloused over, the pricks of joy, peace, love, triumph and nu- 
merous other gifts of life become unnoticed and no longer felt. 
Victor's heart had become quite similar to this situation. Al- 
though he was able to love and to fear he was still stubborn and 

Microcosm 2005 77 



unnecessarily demanding of himself. He was also " solitary and 
abhorred" (93). When the monster, which was made by his own 
hands, pursued him in order to humble himself for forgiveness of 
the murder of William. Yet, because Victor's heart was so hard 
and he was unable to let go of the seemingly deep grudge he was 
holding against the monster, he did not fulfill his promise to 
recreate another monster in order to supply him with someone 
that would have a relationship with him. His hard heart also 
pushed people away. The calloused heart of Victor became a 
deep cavity between him and the world. 

Weaknesses may lie within each of us but none are more 
apparent than those of Victor Frankenstein. His lack of coopera- 
tion with the world and his inward drive to become a creator of 
life left him with a miserable existence entangled in the loss of 
loved ones, his heart, and his world. 

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. New York. Dover Publications, 
Inc., 1993. 




Illustrator: Sonny Norton 



78 



Microcosm 2005 



0) 

3 

0) 



A Portrait of a Q^ 

Soldier 

TREY SMITH 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

MAJOR ROLES: 

Pausanias 
Herodotus 

MINOR ROLES: 

Messenger 
Aristodemos 

The crimson sun slowly rose over the horizon, casting 
streaks of fire across the blue heavens. Smoke arose 
into the morning light, as countless fires burned upon 
the cold earth. The golden hue of armor glistened in the 
sunlight, the armor of countless Spartans having been 

polished hours before. Adamantly they stood, their 

formation and discipline perfected, every man being the 

living portrait of a Spartan soldier. Nonetheless, they 

waited silently as the day began to unfold upon the 

Platatian soil, having waited for this day to come. . . the 

day of liberation! 

Swords held in hand, they watched as he Persians 
marched before them, yet their discipline remained in 
spite of the massive force-marching toward them. It 

could be said that every man was the ideal soldier, 
except for the one amidst the ranks. 

HERODOTUS: "Hail king of the Spartans, Hail Pausatnias who 
dares to war against the Persian swine, how goes 
the day my friend?" 

PAUSANIAS: "Well, as any man would in times of war, and 
you?" 

Microcosm 2005 79 



HERODOTUS: "The same, it would do me well to speak to you 
upon the battles eve, if my intrusion and distrac- 
tions be permitted?" 

PAUSANIAS: "There is no offense, tell me... how does the other 
Greeks fair?" 

HERODOTUS: "They are ready too for battle, yet none look as 
prepared as the soldiers you have assembled this 
day." 

PAUSANIAS: "Indeed, they are the best that Sparta can afford 
to send in such times, may God give us the glory 
of victory." 

HERODOTUS: "Aye, one have assembled so well, yet other kings 
dare to question their superiority in the field." 

PAUSANIAS: "Then that is their mistake, our superiority shall 
be proved this day to all!" 

Moments pass as the Persian approach; however, their 
efforts are slow and cautious as they draw nearer. 

PAUSANIAS: "Hah! The Persian swine rightfully fear us, well 
founded after what we did to them at 
Thermopylai." 

PAUSANIAS: "Indeed, it was glorious battle for aU of Greeks." 

Pausanias pauses as if contemplating what was said, 

shrugging to himself he returns his attention to the 

Persian march. 

Herodotus observes the many Spartan men before him, 
all of who were finely arrayed in the exception of one. 

HERODOTUS: "May I inquire as to who that man is... the one 
who bares the strangely decorated banner." 

PAUSANIAS: "He is a trembler, all of who are ordained in such 
manner." 

HERODOTUS: "Forgive me, but... a trembler?" 

PAUSANIAS: "A simple coward that is all." 

HERODOTUS: "A coward? What is his name?" 

PAUSANIAS: "It is unfortunate enough for me to know the 
man, his name is Aristodemos." 

80 Microcosm 2005 



PAUSANIAS: "He was one of the three hundred who fought at 
Thermoplyai, he was the only one that survived/' 

HERODOTUS: "Was he captured, or did he simply flee like any 
coward would?" 

PAUSANIAS: "Nay, he claims to have become direly ill upon 
the eve of battle, he also claims to have been 
ordered to retire." Pausanias spits in disgust, and 
after a few moments pass he returns his attention 
to the advancing Persians. 

The Persians advance suddenly ends as they quickly 

place wicker shields before them, soon afterward 

followed by a wave of countless arrows, which flew into 

the Spartan line. 

PAUSANIAS: "Cowards! They hide behind their pathetic 
wooden shields..." 

Wave after wave of arrows pour into the Spartan ranks 
as many began to fall. 

HERODOTUS: "Good King, issue the order to attack now less 
the battle be already lost!" 

PAUSANIAS: "Silence! It is I alone who issues the order and is 

my decision when to attack. . . Messenger, sent the 
order to..." 

Pausing, Pausanias looks upon the massive Persian 

force, and also upon the fallen Greeks. His thought 

became lost within the eerie scene, his eyes filled with 

doubt, his face basked in fear. 

MESSENGER: "Sir? The order Sir?" 

Pausanias does not answer as the screams of the dying 

echoed about, wiping his forehead with a trembling 

hand he fails to respond. 

MESSENGER: "Sir? Please, what is your order?" 

HERODOTUS: "The battle is already lost, issue the order to 
retreat..." 

Countless men had fallen as more began to topple over, 
nonetheless discipline held if only barely. Suddenly a 
cry rang out amid the screams of the fallen, reaching 

Microcosm 2005 81 



above the wails. 
ARISTODEMOS: "FOR GREECE! !!" 

Thus with a shout, Aristodemos drove forward with 
sword and shield in hand, soon followed by the rest of 
the Spartans. Onward he rushed and plunged into the 

Persian ranks, cutting down many until his life was 

lost. 

It was by his act of courage that the Spartans won the 

day, repelling back the Persians and ending the threat 

of invasion. 

HERODOTUS: "Was that not Aristodemos who dare charge" 

Was that not the trembler who was first to enter 
the fray? Surely, he was the bravest man this 
day." 

PAUSANIAS: "Perhaps Aristodemos showed bravery this day, 
but he lacked discipline and the will to follow 
orders, he will be forgotten as will all who exem- 
plify such." 



82 Microcosm 2005 



Just Another Guy 

NICK STEIN 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMMUNITY COLLEGE 

CHARACTERS: 

MARK- a young male, wearing dress pants and a button up 
shirt 

WILLIE- an old, dirty vagrant wearing tattered clothes 

DRUNK MAN #1- stereotypical drunk guy 

DRUNK MAN #2- stereotypical drunk buddy of drunk 
man #1 

COP#l 

COP #2 

The stage is set as an old, run down corner store front. 

Two young, intoxicated men in front talk to each other 

in mumbled voices but exaggerated body movement and 

gesticulation. Another older man, Willie, stand a few 

feet from them with sunglasses on and a cup in his 

hand. The shine of headlights can be seen at the left of 

the stage. A young man, Mark, dressed entirely too 

nice to be going to a store like this enters from the left 

looking troubled and cursing under his breath. 

MARK: Excuse me, is there a pay phone around here? 

DRUNK MAN #1: Go inside, all the way to the back. It's right up 
next to the bathroom. 

[Mark walks hurriedly and nervously inside the store. 
The men outside resume their mumbled conversation. 
In the distance, faint sirens slowly grow louder, then 
fade away. As a couple walks by the store, the man in 
sunglasses shakes his tin can in their direction and the 
jingling of change is heard.] 

WILLIE: Spare some change for an old blind man? 

[A coin is dropped in his cup, and he gives a thankful 

Microcosm 2005 83 



nod as the couple continues on their way.] 

DRUNK MAN #l:That boy just drove up got smoke comin from 
his hood, Willie. 

WILLIE: You shore it ain't steam? 

[The drunk man stumbles over to the left of the stage 

and after taking a look, turns around a bit too fast. He 

nearly falls, but regains his balance at the last possible 

moment, and walks back to the front of the store, 

seeming oblivious to his loss of coordination.] 

DRUNK MAN #l:Dafs steam, Willie. How'd you know? 

WILLIE: I can still hear his radiator whistlin. 

DRUNK MAN #2: (shoving the other drunk man) I done told you 
Willie smart. 

DRUNK MAN #1: I ain't never say he wasn't smart. 

[The door to the gas station swings open.] 

MARK: Damnit! 

DRUNK MAN #2: What's yo problem? 

MARK: (quietly and without looking at the man) 

Nothing, I'm just waiting on a ride. 

WILLIE: (Shaking his cup) Spare some change for an 

old blind man? 

MARK: (pulling some change from his coat pocket) 

Sure. 

WILLIE: Somebody comin to getcha, boy? 

MARK: Yeah, my car just started smoking and my wife 

is half an hour away, and. . . 

Boom! 

[A gun can be heard firing, followed by a woman's 
screams from the right side of the stage. Mark appears 
panicky as he moves closer to the door. The drunk men 

look suddenly awakened and they strain their necks 

trying to see what happened while moving to the right 

and off stage.] 

DRUNK MAN #2: She dead. She don't need no ambulance. 

4 Microcosm 2005 



MARK: (with a shaky voice) Urn, what just happened? 

DRUNK MAN #2: Some girl got shot. They took her purse and 
her shoes too. 

MARK: Oh my God! What should we do? 

WILLIE: (Sarcastically) What can we do? 

[The drunk men begin to mumble at a low volume 
again. Sirens can be heard again, but this time they 
don't fade away. When they finally stop, blue lights can 
be seen flashing upon the stage. Two policemen ap- 
proach the store nonchalantly.] 

COY I: Who called 911? 

DRUNK MAN #1: (pointing to the door) In there. 

[Cop #1 walks inside. Mark checks his watch, then 
checks again.] 

COP #2: did anybody see anything? 

DRUNK MAN #2: (excitedly) I seen everything man. I swear I 
seen it! De was runnin and... 

COP #2: Come over here and let me get a statement 

from you. 

[The two walk off stage to the left. The other drunk 

man sits on the ground with his back to the wall and 

appears to go to sleep.] 

WILLIE: It's about time for you to get goin, ain't it boy? 

MARK: I'm waiting on my wife. She should be here in 

a few minutes. 

WILLIE: Good luck with yo car. 

MARK: Thanks 

[The cop walks out of the store and addresses Mark.] 

COP #1: Did you see what happened? 

MARK: I didn't see anything. I just heard a shot and a 

scream. 

COP #1: (looking at Willie) what about y. . .Oh I'm 

sorry. 

WILLIE: Spare some change for an old blind man? 

Microcosm 2005 £ 



COP #1: Sorry, all out. 

[The cop walks off stage to the left. The drunk man by 

the wall has apparently fallen over and passed out. A 

puddle of cheap wine surrounds his overturned bottle, 

and it looks like blood in the glow of the fluorescent 

lights. Willie takes a few steps forward, bends over, and 

picks up a quarter from the ground.] 

MARK: How did you see that quarter on the ground? 

WILLIE: I heard it fall when that cop dropped it. 

[Mark reaches in his pocket and removes a lighter. He 

tosses it at Willie, who quickly grabs the lighter before 

it hits his face.] 

MARK: You're not blind! I dropped that quarter when 

I came out of the store. I just didn't pick it 
back up because of all the filth on the ground 
around here. You're just lying to people for 
money! I hope you burn in Hell for this! Why 
don't you get a job you lazy bum! 

WILLIE: Do you know how hard it is for a man like me 

to get a job? 

MARK: I've got a job! The clerk inside has a job! The 

only reason you don't is that you're lazy and 
you want to live off of those of us who are 
worth something. 

WILLIE: Why am I not worth anything? 

MARK: Look at you! Sitting her in front of a gas 

station, hanging out with a bunch of drunks. 
You people make me sick! 

WILLIE: (angry) Look at you! With your nice clothes 

and your nice car! Looking down on us like a 
bunch of animals! I may not be blind, but you 
are! You're blind to the world around you. Do 
you think I like this neighborhood? I wish I 
really was blind, so I wouldn't have to see the 
things that go on around me everyday. So I 
wouldn't have seen that boy in the black coat 
shoot that girl just then. Not everybody was 



Microcosm 2005 



given the same opportunities you were. Fve 
tried to get out of here, but it's the people like 
you that hold me in. They see me as nothing 
more than a waste, and so that's what I've 
become. If you'd open your eyes a little bit, we 
might all have better lives! 

[The two men stare at each other in silence for a few 

moments. The drunk man rolls over a bit and lets out a 

low moan. One of the cops walks back towards Mark 

and Willie.] 

COP #1: Are you sure you didn't see anything? This all 

happened across the street for Christ's sake! 

[Mark stares at Willie for a couple of seconds. 
Willie stares into the blank space in front of 
him.] 

MARK: (to the cop) I think I saw a guy in a black 

jacket running away. 

COP #1: What else? 

MARK: That's it. 

COP #1: That's it? 

MARK: That's it. 

[The cop shakes his head in disapproval and walks off 

stage to the right. Willie looks as if he is about to say 

something, but Mark speaks up first.] 

I'm sorry about what all I said, but I still don't 
think you should lie about being blind. 

I don't neither. But I am sure you do things 
you know are wrong. 

[A few more moments of silence ensue. Then, Mark 

takes his hand out of his pocket and reaches towards 

Willie.] 

MARK: My name's Mark. 

Willie: Willie 

[The two men shake hands. Headlights can be seen 
pulling up on the left side of the stage.] 



MARK: 



WILLIE: 



Microcosm 2005 



87 



MARK: That's my ride... Um, have a good night Willie. 

WILLIE: Good luck with yo car. 

[Mark walks off stage to the left and from that direc- 
tion, voices are heard.] 

WOMAN: (disgustingly) Who was that creep you were 

shaking hands with? 

MARK: He's just another guy that's down on his luck, 

that 's all. 

Curtains drop dramatically 

Audience roars with applause 

[Standing Ovation] 




Illustrator: David Russell 



Microcosm 2005 



Thanks -Giving 

RANDALL KING 

COPIAH-LINCOLN COMMUNITY COLLEGE 

The interior of an American home, inside two rooms 

can he seen: the living room and behind, underneath a 

mahogany archway was the dining room. The living 

area is stocked well for a middle class American family, 

hut there is no television. The entire room is ordained 

in mahogany items hut it is set off by the radio and a 

six-foot, mahogany grandfather clock whose golden 

pendulum continues to chime away at the time. 

(The time on the clock is 11:30. In the dining room a 
women enters, MARGARET WALKER, and begins to 

set the table. She is in her late forties. She has curly, 
auburn hair and wears a Sunday dress. Her husband, 

PETER WALKER, enters the living room from the 
hallway. He is wearing a dress shirt and tie. The tie is 
too short and the shirt is uncomfortably new and stiff.) 

PETER: Margaret! (He stops at the mirror and begins to 

adjust his tie.) This... darn it... this tie is too small for 
me. 

MARGARET: It's not around your neck for looks Honey. It's there 
for sentimental reasons. (She exits to the kitchen. 
PETER stretches his head around the corner to 
make sure the door is shut, and moves quickly to 
the liquor cabinet, opens some whiskey, and takes 
a large swallow from the bottle.) 

PETER: Melody bought this tie for me ten years ago. If it 

doesn't fit, it doesn't fit. 

MARGARET: (Hollering from the kitchen) It fits well enough, 

and don't touch the liquor. We have company coming 
over and Bro. and Sis. Jackson doesn't drink. 

PETER: Yes dear! 

(He takes an even larger drink from the bottle, gri- 
maces and returns it to the liquor cabinet. He slug- 
Microcosm 2005 89 



gishly walks to a recliner, the dominant American male 

throne, and instead of sitting back he slumps allowing 

his head to hang down. MARGARET enters lavishly, 

her company mode in full throttle. She carries an 

imitation china tea set with coffee inside.) 

MARGARET: It's almost over, Honey. (She kneels down, leans 
her head under his, and kisses him on the lips.) 

PETER: Will it be... over? 

(They stare at each other quietly has the clocks move- 
ments become more evident. The clicks of the clock rise 
in volume — 11:35. Three hard knocks ram on the door.) 

MARGARET: They're here. Good. No. . .wait, I have to get 
ready. 

PETER: Get ready? You look good enough for two 

church services and wedding. What do you have 
to do now? 

MARGARET: (Harshly) Answer the door— Peter. (She exits to the 
kitchen adjusting her hair.) 

PETER: Yeah, I'll get the door, and you do what's more 

important. Like playing with that mop on your 
head. 

(PETER opens the front door. THOMAS and SUSAN 

JACKSON enter. THOMAS is a man in his fifties with 

bulky army style glasses. His wife is considerably older 

than him with blonde dye and gray roots in her hair. 

She rubs one of PETER'S arms while her husband 

shakes the other hand excitedly.) 

THOMAS: Pete. It's so glad to see ya again. I'm, we, are so 

glad it's almost here. 

SUSAN: We've been praying for you and Margaret. You 

know we love you. 

PETER: Thank you both. (He kisses SUSAN on the cheek. 

He is polite but the tone in his voice is dull.) Come 
in and have some coffee. It's cold out there tonight. 

(They sit in the chairs surrounding the coffee. PETER 

returns to his recliner but this time sits up straight and 

in control.) 



90 



Microcosm 2005 



THOMAS: Well, you know. .. (Trying to break the silence) 

SUSAN: Aww, look at how good the place looks, I just 

love this wood. 

(MARGARET enters through the dining room carrying 
a plate of cookies. She is now wearing a white, flower 

covered apron capitalizing on the classic American 
homemaker. PETER rolls his eyes when he notices it.) 

MARGARET: Bro. and Sis. Jackson, you're here. 

SUSAN: Oh, Margaret. I was just complimenting your 

living room. I love this wood. What is it called 
again? Moohoogany? 

MARGARET: Mahogany. 

SUSAN: Well, it looks like it came from 

something. . .well. . .beautiful. 

{She laughs shamefully. Everyone remains quiet. The clock 
drowns out the silence as it counts the time as 11 A3) 

MARGARET: Have you heard from Chris? Is he still coming to 
be with us tonight? 

THOMAS: He'll probably. . . 

SUSAN: HeTl be here because here is where I'm at. He 

needs me right now. 

THOMAS: We don't know what he's doing tonight, hon- 

estly. 

And I'm here for him too. 



SUSAN: 
THOMAS: 

SUSAN: 
PETER: 
THOMAS: 

MARGARET: 
PETER: 



He said he was going to be there tonight. He 
thinks we should have all went to the... 

Just like I'm here for you. 

(Regretfully) / should have been there. 

I wouldn't want to drive that far back from 
something like that. 

At least we're at home celebrating. We're com- 
fortable with good snacks and good coffee instead 
of in some dank government building. 

(Angrily) It doesn't matter what the circumstances I 
should be there for. . .for her. (Margaret rubs his 



Microcosm 2005 



91 



hands to soothe him.) 

THOMAS: Pete you know we love her like she was our 

daughter. 

SUSAN: And Chris loves her too. 

THOMAS: God's got a time and place for everything, and an 

answer for everything. When that clock points 
straight up, it'll be time for his answer to this. 

SUSAN: God is always with us, and always for us. 

PETER: You are right. (He forces a smile upon his face but 

his voice still has a dull fake tone.) 

MARGARET: It's best for just a few people to share this. 

THOMAS: I just hope Chris decides to come here instead of 

driving all the way to the. . . 

SUSAN: HeTl be here. He needs me. He's my only child 

and I'd never let anything happen to him. 

THOMAS: (Embarrassed) Susan! 

PETER: It's all right Tom. I used to say the same thing about 

Melody. I wish she were here. If she was, I would grab 
a hold to that girl, and never let anyone come within a 
few feet, and if they did. . . (His tone turns from dull 
to heated. He stands up with his coffee cup in his 
hands, unaware he his shaking it violently. MAR- 
GARET places her hand on his arm, calming him 
and gently swaying him to sit back down.) I 
should have been there. 

THOMAS: I wish she were here. I wish we were celebrating 

the union of our two families, but instead we're 
celebrating the end to... 

SUSAN: This mess. God will sort this out for us and it will 

be done. 

MARGARET: Amen. 

(The celebration returns to silence. The decorous clock 
reads 11:48. On the wall behind the clock is a huge flag 
proclaiming largely what the state always proclaims — 
we are Texans. A knock raps on the door. This time the 
knocks are soft and unmotivated.) 



92 



Microcosm 2005 



SUSAN: It's my baby. 

PETER: Til get it. 

SUSAN: I told you he would come to me. 

(PETER answers the door. All three of his companions 

follow behind him, standing way to close. CHRIS 

enters the living room with a solemn look attached to 

his face. Sympathetic greetings abound him as he makes 

his way to a chair.) 

SUSAN: You look so pale. Did you eat anything today 

baby? 

CHRIS: No, Mom. I didn't. 

SUSAN: Well, I raised you to know that breakfast is the 

most important meal of the day. 

THOMAS: (Annoyed) Susan, it's a little late to be worrying 

about breakfast. 

SUSAN: It's never too... 

THOMAS: He has got bigger issues than. . . 

SUSAN: Well, breakfast is important. That's all. . . 

CHRIS: Mom! Dad! Please don't do the back and forth 

thing. Not now. Please! 

Speaking of food. (Changing the subject) 

The cake! 



MARGARET: 

SUSAN: 

MARGARET: 



The cake. Susan would you help me get it out? 
It's almost time. 



(Everyone turns and stares at the clock — 11:50. MAR- 
GARET and SUSAN exit through the dining room to 
the kitchen.) 



THOMAS: 



CHRIS: 



(Singing) Dust on the bible, dust on the holy word. 
(Clears his throat) Amazing grace, how sweet the 
sound, a sound that... 



I drove up there today. 

(THOMAS and PETER lean on the edge of their chairs 
and become very attentive.) 

PETER: Did you go in? 



Microcosm 2005 



93 



CHRIS: No. (Tears form at the base of his eyes.) I couldn't 

get out of the car. 

THOMAS: The lord gives us strength and then again, he 

gives us our weaknesses too. 

(CHRIS pulls out a pint of liquor from his jacket and 

takes a shot straight from the bottle. He gestures the 

bottle toward the other men. They happily receive the 

liquor into their coffee.) 

THOMAS: Some weaknesses can be a blessing. (He downs the 

cup and holds it out for a refill.) 

CHRIS: If I had gone in I probably would have caused a 

big scene. I don't know what I would have done, 
but I know I wouldn't be quite if I saw him. 
Melody wouldn't want me to act that way 
though. She was always so calm and cool, no 
matter what. 

PETER: She was a better person than any of us could ever 

be. My daughter — the angel. 

(The women enter the dining room talking loudly, 

while merrily dancing around the table setting up the 

cake and utensils.) 

SUSAN: Come on boys. The cake is ready. Lets say a 

prayer before we celebrate. 

(They all gather around the dining room table.) 

MARGARET: Would you give thanks Peter? We still have a lot 
to be thankful for. 

(Each one bows their heads and stand in silence as 
PETER begins the prayer.) 

PETER: Dear lord, we have come here tonight to thank 

you for an end. As you know our two families are 
no longer one. There is someone missing. In your 
wisdom you took our daughter and our wife. You 
have done this so many times to many different 
people, and we know we are not special, so we 
don't ask why. And we didn't ask for vengeance, 
but in your grace you have given us that ven- 
geance tonight, and for that we are thankful. 

94 Microcosm 2005 



Thankful that we serve a powerful and merciful 
god who takes an eye for an eye and a tooth for a 
tooth. 

SUSAN: Hallelujah. 

PETER: Thank you lord for your many blessings and keep 

Melody safe and warm in your arms tonight. 

CHRIS: And let that murderer burn in hell tonight. 

THOMAS: Vengeance is mine. Sayeth the lord. 

PETER: Amen. 

MARGARET: Amen. 

(The clock finally reaches midnight. It announces the 

time with loud, nearly deafening chimes. The two 
families remain standing around the table. MARGA- 
RET falls into the chair behind her, and begins to cry. 

CHRIS pounds slowly but forcibly onto the table, 
trying to hold back his emotions. After the strokes of 
midnight there is a silence of quiet weeping, but all 
have their heads down making it impossible to distin- 
guish who it is. Suddenly the phone rings causing 
everyone to jump. PETER rushes to answer it. 

PETER: Hello?... thank you... yes that's great news... 

thanks for being their for us reverend it means a 
lot to all of us... Yes, Chris is about as good as he 
can be... no thank you... alright, good bye. 

(Everyone stands. They look at PETER impa- 
tiently waiting for some news.) 

PETER: It's official. The SOB is dead. 

(Their sad faces disappear. Smiles return. PETER 
walks over to MARGARET and hugs her.) 

CHRIS: (CHRIS slaps the table hard then cups his hands 

over his mouth. He leans back and screams.) I 
didn't think you would ever let it happen old man. It's 
about damn time. 

SUSAN: (Sharply) CHRIS! 

(PETER pries away from his wife, and makes his way 
into the living room. Where a TV would be expected to 



Microcosm 2005 



95 



sit an old but classic radio from the thirties took its 

place. Its golden, arch speakers rise elegantly above the 

pearl colored controls and are housed in a beautiful 

mahogany finish. He plays with the controls until the 

static from the air plays out and a new report can be 

heard.) 

NEWS ANNOUNCER: (Off screen) Eadies and 
gentlemen you just heard the Warden of the Texas 
State Pentintrey. He has made it official. At exactly 
twelve-midnight, central time zone, Frank Smith was 
put to death by the Electric Chair. He was convicted for 
the murder, rape and dismemberment of twenty -three 
year old Melody Jackson. She is survived by her hus- 
band Chris Jackson, and her parents, Peter and Marga- 
ret Walker. Our prayers go out to them tonight. Texas 
justice has been served once again. 

CURTAIN 




Illustrator: David Russell 



96 Microcosm 200!: